In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Overcome by Modernity?Three Works by and about Takeuchi Yoshimi
  • Steven Heine (bio)
Takeuchi Yoshimi: Displacing the West. By Richard F. Calichman. Cornell East Asia Series, Ithaca, 2004. xv, 232 pages. $21.00, paper.
Japan in Asien: Geschichtsdenken und Kulturkritik nach 1945. By Takeuchi Yoshimi; edited and translated by Wolfgang Seifert and Christian Uhl. Iudicium Verlag, Munich, 2005. 302 pages. €28.00.
What is Modernity? Writings of Takeuchi Yoshimi. By Takeuchi Yoshimi; edited and translated by Richard F. Calichman. Columbia University Press, New York, 2005. xvi, 182 pages. $64.50, cloth; $24.50, paper.

Takeuchi Yoshimi's historical thought and cultural criticism, to cite the subtitle of the second book listed above, is richly deserving of the recent attention it has received with two fine new translations, one in English and the other in German, along with a compelling expository work by Richard F. Calichman, the English translator. What is Modernity? presents six essays including two seminal pieces also contained in Japan in Asien dealing with the matter of qualifying and comparing forms of Asian resistance and/or capitulation to modernization, "What is Modernity? (The Case of Japan and China)" and "Overcoming Modernity."

The English volume includes four additional essays: "Ways of Introducing Culture (Japanese Literature and Chinese Literature II)—Focusing Upon Lu Xun," "The Question of Politics and Literature (Japanese Literature and Chinese Literature I)" (appearing here after part one), "Hu Shi and Dewey," and "Asia as Method." These writings focus on how intellectuals Lu Xun and Hu Shi serve as models for understanding China-Japan relations. The third and final piece in the German volume is "Der japanische Asianismus" (Japanese Asianism), the longest of all the essays translated that is especially useful for understanding Takeuchi's full view of Japanese modernism by exploring [End Page 190] its origins in Meiji-era Japan, a theme not given consideration in the other works.

Both volumes provide excellent renderings of Takeuchi's core writings, and Calichman's translation also includes a thought-provoking introductory essay. Here and in Takeuchi Yoshimi, he discusses some of the challenges in translating these works. For example, elusive sentences such as "Simply being Europe does not make Europe Europe" (Yōroppa ga, tan ni Yōroppa de aru koto wa, Yōroppa de aru koto de nai) (alternatively: Europe is not Europe simply because it is Europe) capture Takeuchi's effort to reckon with the Other as the basis for all self-definition. Anticipating Edward Said's work on Orientalism, Takeuchi asserts that Japanese identity must be understood not as something autonomous, but in contrast with China and the West (What is Modernity? p. 8; Takeuchi Yoshimi, p. 134), and the same is equally true for European (i.e., Western or Occidental) senses of self-identity, as Calichman explains. In addition to producing very readable and accessible renderings of the original writing that is sometimes a bit repetitious and convoluted, the two volumes each offer a comprehensive glossary, especially thorough and complete in the case of Japan in Asien, where it runs for over 100 pages with very detailed explanations (pp. 191–296).

Takeuchi's writings are very much rooted in the period following World War II, as again the German translation indicates in its subtitle, especially in the ways they address issues of Japanese identity and how the process of modernization in Japan led to some of the problematic conditions of pre- and postwar society. Written over a period of 15 years from 1948 to 1963, the essays by Takeuchi translated here evoke a view of Japan's relation to China and the West that simply stopped existing shortly after the time of their composition due to the advent of Chinese communism and the rise of the Japanese economy amid the collective forces of globalization. For example, in an essay published in 1948, he contrasts Japanese literature, which he says is "defined as children's literature" because of its reliance on external forces as well as its impurity and decadence, with Chinese literature which "would have to be seen as adult literature" because of its purity and resilience (What is Modernity? p. 83).

However, this Sinophilic remark based in large part on his...