10. Retrospection in Japanese Prose Literature
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CHAPTER 10 Retrospection in Japanese tProse Literature IMITATIVE FICTIONAL MONOGATARI Thirteenth-century Japanese prose followed the same course toward ga and zoku as did contemporary prose and poetry written in Chinese. Peo­ ple of considerable talent wrote the three principal stories (monogatari) of the late eleventh century: Sagoromo Monogatari (The Story of Sagoromo ), Yowa no Nezame (The Tale of Nezame), and Hamamatsu ChUnagon Monogatari (The Nostalgic Counselor). From that point on, both writers of fiction and their audiences realized that no one would ever write a better narrative than that found in the superlative Genji Mono­ gatari (The Tale ofGenji).Authors reacted in two ways. One method, the next best thing to rivalling the Genji, was to create a similar monogatari through the use of related subject matter and narrative style. The second kind of response was to experiment with unusual subjects and so create something fresh, something different from the Genji. Ariake no Wakare (Parting at Dawn) is a twelfth-century work belonging to the former cat­ egory. The latter categorycomprises three twelfth-century narratives, Torikaebaya Monogatari (The Changelings), Matsura no Miya Monogatari (The Tale of the Matsura Shrine), and "Mushi Mezuru Himegimi" ("The Lady Who Loved Insects"). The former approach set the standard for fictional monogatari from the thirteenth century on. This trend resembles the evolution of Nijo pseudoclassicism as the mainstream waka style from Tameie's time on­ ward. Fictional monogatari composed in thestyle of the Genji are gener­ ally termed imitative monogatari (giko monogatari). They were appar­ ently composed in vast quantities. Nearly two hundred existed when the Fuydshu was compiled in 1271.1 If we include imitative classical mono­ gatari written after the Fuydshii, the number probablyexceeds three hun­ dred. Most of this corpus has been lost. The thirteenth century certainly marked the zenith of fictional monogatari in quantitative terms. Compare their number with that estimated for earlier monogatari. Thirty-one works, including ones now lost, were written before the eleventh century 1 The Fuydshu isa waka collection of poems selected from fictional monogatari and com­ piled according to the arrangement of royal waka anthologies. The compiler is unknown. The text that survives isan augmented version of the original. The final two of the original twenty books do not survive. RETROSPECTION IN JAPANESE PROSE 285 (vol. two, ch. 8), and seventy-four monogatari, including those no longer extant, are thought to have been written in the eleventh and twelfth cen­ turies.2 The marked increase in monogatari during the thirteenth century probably mirrors an equivalent increase in readership. In one presumably thirteenth-century work, Waga Mi ni Tadoru Himegimi, one of the char­ acters, the sovereign Saga, comments on a certain Minister of Popular Affairs: "He need only see something once to remember it—really, who can rival him? When he first came to attend us at the palace, he had a reputation for knowing the three great waka anthologies and all the monogatari that were ever written.. .. That gentleman is indeed a marvel." (6:366-67) Saga's statement, that the minister's superhuman powers of memory en­ able him to be conversant with "all the monogatari that were ever writ­ ten," makes no sense unless we assume that fictional monogatari existed in vast quantities at this time. Even if we allow for fictional license, the Minister of Popular Affairs likely mirrors similarly well read members of thirteenth-century society. Authors frame a narrative to accord with their anticipated audience. If the audience is well read, the narrative must take this into account. Con­ sequently, an author may place greater reliance on earlier works of fic­ tion. The fact that the Minister of Popular Affairs has memorized the "three great waka anthologies" (the Kokinshu, the Gosenshu, and the Shitishu) as well as a monogatari corpus signifies that waka and mono­ gatari were held to share the same status. Waka achieve truly poetic ex­ pression when they draw on earlier waka. Similarly, monogatari acquire a status worthy of the genre when they draw on already extant monoga­ tari. That is why authors minedearlier monogatari for subject matter and stylistic ideas. A common theme of thirteenth-century imitative monogatari is a pro­ tagonist's rise, setbacks, and downfall [or success] placed against a back­ ground of intrigue over the royal succession. The narrative is interwoven with subplots of love affairs at court and embellished with various com­ plex relationships. The characters' thoughts, responses,and actions in the 2 Fifty-eight now nonextant fictional monogatari postdating the...