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The Closed Hand

Images of the Japanese in Modern Peruvian Literature

by Rebecca Riger Tsurumi

Publication Year: 2012

In her book, The Closed Hand: Images of the Japanese in Modern Peruvian Literature, Rebecca Riger Tsurumi captures the remarkable story behind the changing human landscape in Peru at the end of the nineteenth century when Japanese immigrants established what would become the second largest Japanese community in South America. She analyzes how non-Japanese Peruvian narrators unlock the unspoken attitudes and beliefs about the Japanese held by mainstream Peruvian society, as reflected in works written between l966 and 2006. Tsurumi explores how these Peruvian literary giants, including Mario Vargas Llosa, Miguel Gutiérrez, Alfredo Bryce Echenique, Carmen Ollé, Pilar Dughi, and Mario Bellatin, invented Japanese characters whose cultural differences fascinated and confounded their creators. She compares the outsider views of these Peruvian narrators with the insider perceptions of two Japanese Peruvian poets, José Watanabe and Doris Moromisato, who tap personal experiences and memories to create images that define their identities. The book begins with a brief sociohistorical overview of Japan and Peru, describing the conditions in both nations that resulted in Japanese immigration to Peru and concluding in contemporary times. Tsurumi traces the evolution of the terms “Orient” and “Japanese/Oriental” and the depiction of Asians in Modernista poetry and in later works by Octavio Paz and Jorge Luis Borges. She analyzes the images of the Japanese portrayed in individual works of modern Peruvian narrative, comparing them with those created in Japanese Peruvian poetry. The book concludes with an appendix containing excerpts from Tsurumi’s interviews and correspondence in Spanish with writers and poets in Lima and Mexico City.

Published by: Purdue University Press

Series: Purdue Studies in Romance Literatures

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-xii

Years ago when I was a newlywed, my growing curiosity about the differences between my own American and my husband’s Japanese culture led me to take a Japanese classical dance course in Kabuki given by Ito Sachiyo to find out what the Japanese approach could teach me. What I discovered...

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pp. xiii-xv

While exploring the images of the Japanese in modern Peruvian literature and poetry, I met many remarkable individuals, including six of the eight authors whose works I explored in this book. The completion of the manuscript, however, would not have been possible without the intellectual...

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Chapter One. A Socio-historical Overview of the Japanese Presence in Peru

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pp. 1-32

Fierce debate over immigration policy and the acceptance of rapidly growing minorities in mainstream society continues to inflame public opinion in the mass media throughout the world. Divergent attitudes toward newly arrived immigrants who must pass through a grueling process of assimilation...

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Chapter Two. Images of the Orient/Japan in Spanish American Literature from the Modernistas and Beyond

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pp. 33-57

The allure of Japan continues to captivate Spanish readers, as indicated by the recent publication of the first Spanish translation of Japan’s national epic, Heike Monogatari (Tale of the Heike; Cantar de Heike),1 Spanish editions of...

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Chapter Three. A Japanese Swashbuckler in La casa verde and a Japanese Gangster in Travesuras de la niña mala

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pp. 59-75

In his remarkable novel La casa verde, Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa (Arequipa, 1936) creates one of the earliest and most indelible portraits of a Japanese protagonist in Spanish American literature.1 The novelist tapped into the legends echoing in the Amazon villages about a real man, a ruthless fugitive of Japanese ancestry but of unknown origin who was...

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Chapter Four. Images of the Japanese in Peruvian Short Fiction: “Matavilela” and “Muerte de Sevilla en Madrid”

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pp. 77-91

In the post-boom sixties, two prominent Peruvian authors born within a year of each other but on opposite ends of the social spectrum, wrote short works of fiction that added further nuances to the broad strokes drawn by Vargas Llosa in his portrait...

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Chapter Five. Las dos caras del deseo: A Female Nikkei Character in a Pivotal Role

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pp. 93-111

In her first novel, Las dos caras del deseo, renowned poet Carmen Ollé (Lima, 1947) breaks new ground not only by writing "la primera novela que aborda abiertamente una temática lesbiana” (Reisz 47), but also by creating a female Nikkei...

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Chapter Six. Postwar Japanese Literature as a Catalyst for Change in Puñales escondidos

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pp. 113-129

In a telling decision, Peruvian author and psychiatrist Pilar Dughi (Lima, 1956–2005) selected four outstanding examples of postwar Japanese literature to serve as catalysts that would compel Fina Artadi, the heroine of her first novel,...

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Chapter Seven. Images of the Japanese in El jardín de la señora Murakami and Shiki Nagaoka: Una nariz de ficción

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pp. 131-150

Mario Bellatin (Mexico City, 1960)1 wraps himself in the traditions of distant foreign cultures like a magician’s cloak of invisibility that enables him to reflect on important questions about literature and uncover truths about the act of writing and the role of the writer in his texts. Diana Palaversich...

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Chapter Eight. Reflections of the Japanese in the Poetry of José Watanabe

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pp. 151-170

Images of the Japanese are striking in clarity and depth in the works of two Nisei poets in Peru. José Watanabe1 and Doris Moromisato distill a rich elixir from their childhood memories, lessons imparted from their immigrant parents and learned from their own unique perspective as Nisei Peruvians. Watanabe...

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Chapter Nine. Representations of the Okinawan/Japanese in the Poetry of Doris Moromisato

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pp. 171-192

Nisei poet Doris Moromisato Miasato (Chambala, Lima, 1962) has wrestled with formidable questions of gender, sexuality, and national identity all her life and embraces them as primary themes in her poetry. This study examines how she invests her work with images of the Okinawan/Japanese reflecting...

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Chapter Ten. Conclusions

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pp. 193-202

In the twenty-first century, cultural and racial diversity has become an inescapable reality. Immigration issues and the soaring growth of minorities throughout the world increasingly provoke public opinion in the mass media, on the Internet, and in the national and local platforms of political candidates. This book...

Appendix. Interviews with Six Authors

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pp. 203-254


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pp. 255-284


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pp. 285-301


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pp. 303-313

About the Author

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E-ISBN-13: 9781612492131
E-ISBN-10: 1612492134
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557536075
Print-ISBN-10: 1557536074

Page Count: 228
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Purdue Studies in Romance Literatures