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Reviewed by:
  • Nostalgic Journeys: Literary Pilgrimages Between Japan and the West
  • Sonja Arntzen
Nostalgic Journeys: Literary Pilgrimages Between Japan and the West. Edited by Susan Fisher. Vancouver: Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia, 2001. ix + 194pp. $24.95cdn

This volume comprises the proceedings of a conference on the theme of literary pilgrimages between Japan and the West held at the University of British Columbia in 1999. The conference honored Prof. Kinya Tsuruta, former professor of the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia. Since most of the papers are by former students and colleagues of Prof. Tsuruta, the volume resembles a festschrift. It is much more unified in theme, however, than most festschrifts. Moreover, typically festschrifts are produced either immediately upon the retirement of an eminent scholar or after the scholar's death. In the former case, contributors can look forward to the honored professor having a productive retirement; in the latter, there is a sense of completion to the scholar's life. In this case, Kinya Tsuruta was on the verge of dying. Having been diagnosed with terminal cancer the year before, he was in the last stages of the illness and passed away only a month or two after the conference.

I mention this circumstance because it is of particular relevance to the character of this volume. This might not have been the case had Tsuruta, like most people, kept his encounter with death a private affair. From the moment he received the diagnosis, however, he began to contemplate the process of dying with the same passion and precision of perception that he had devoted to the study of literary texts his whole life. Perhaps we do not often think of literary criticism as a discipline that prepares us to face the big questions of life and death, but this was clearly so with Tsuruta. Moreover, he shared his insights with a wide range of friends by circular letters. In fact, one of the last of these letters is translated and presented as an afterword to this volume making this part of Tsuruta's oeuvre truly public.

The second effect of this particular circumstance on the volume was to give a personal quality to most of the papers. Many contributors, particularly former students, appear to have chosen topics of particular interest to Tsuruta or of deep personal importance to themselves. It often seems as though they are addressing their words to Tsuruta himself as much as to a [End Page 603] general audience. This focuses the papers in an engaging way not often seen in proceedings volumes.

Nonetheless, the papers range, as one would expect, over a large number of topics. There is not room in this review to summarize the contents of all fifteen papers. Here, however, is an overview of the organization of the volume and a list of authors covered. Part One, "A Circular Pilgrimage: Home and Abroad in Modern Japanese Literature" consists of nine papers on modern Japanese authors for whom travel, either physically or through reading foreign works of literature, shaped vital aspects of their literary imagination. The first essay in this group follows Kinya Tsuruta's own career as a critic, analyzing how he viewed himself as an ekkyôsha, someone who "had crossed the frontier line." The other eight essays treat Shiga Naoya, Kobayashi Hideo, Tanizaki Junichirô, Kawabata Yasunari, Yukio Mishima, Ôe Kenzaburô, Hayashi Fumiko and Ôba Minako. Part Two, "Between Japan and the West," presents three papers dealing with figures whose identities straddled Japan and the West, either due to mixed Japanese and European parentage, or due to the fact that as writers they devoted themselves to interpreting Japan to the West. "Two men from Nagasaki," Sadakichi Hartmann, who became a silent film actor in Hollywood, and Tomisaburô Kuraba-Glover, who among other things founded the International Club of Nagasaki, are the subject of the first essay. The writers examined in the other two essays are, Okakura Kakuzô, the early exponent of Japanese aesthetics, and D.T. Suzuki, the foremost interpreter of Zen to the West, both of whom are better known for their works in English than in Japanese. Part Three, "Re-making the Exotic...


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