Shimao's fiction covers a wide range of topics: the war and its aftermath, the unconscious, the nuclear family, madness, the position of women, the culture of Japan's southern islands. Shimao's experiences as a survivor of a kamikaze unit underscore much of his literature and resulted in a series of compelling short stories unique in modern fiction. Many of these early, critically acclaimed works, including the classic Everyday Life in a Dream, are based on the narrative logic of the unconscious. Mad Wives and Island Dreams contextualizes these dream stories as a literary expression of wartime trauma and argues that Shimao's powerful narration of guilt and victimization challenges standard readings of Japanese war literature.
Shimao's most popular works are the byosaimono (literally stories of a sick wife), which chronicle the real-life crisis of his wife's madness in the mid-1950s. Among these is the writer's best-known work, the 1977 novel Shi no toge (The sting of death), widely recognized as one of the masterpieces of Japanese literature. The novel further explores Shimao's literature of the victimizer and wartime experience while revealing a feminist perspective that explores links between the suppressed aspirations of women and madness. Perhaps, most importantly, just as the novel examines the relationship between the wife, Miho, and her southern island roots, Shi no toge parallels Shimao's growing concern over the culture of marginalized regions and notions of cultural diversity-a concern that would eventually result in the Yaponesia essays.
In Mad Wives and Island Dreams, Gabriel succeeds in linking all of the seemingly disparate strands within Shimao's oeuvre--the war stories, the byosaimono, the dream stories, the Yaponesia writings-categories all too often discussed in isolation. He shows convincingly that together they represent a consistent and concerted attempt to depict the existence of the Other, the significant periphery of a less than homogenous whole. This volume will prove fascinating and important reading for those interested in questions of cultural identity and marginalization as well as Japanese literature and culture.
The essays in this volume explore such subjects as the continuing resonances of the atomic bombings; the notion of transnational subjects; the question of the de-canonization (as well as the re-canonization) of writers; the construction (and deconstruction) of gender models; the quest for spirituality amid contemporary Japanese consumer affluence; post-modernity and Japanese infantilism; the intertwining connections between history, myth-making, and discrimination; and apocalyptic visions of fin de siecle Japan. Contributors pursue various methodological and theoretical approaches to reveal the breadth of scholarship on modern Japanese literature. The essays reflect some of the latest thinking, both Western and Japanese, on such topics as subjectivity, gender, history, modernity, and the postmodern.
Oe and Beyond includes essays on Endo Shusaku, Hayashi Kyoko, Kanai Mieko, Kurahashi Yumiko, Murakami Haruki, Murakami Ryu, Nakagami Kenji, Oe Kenzaburo, Ohba Minako, Shimada Masahiko, Takahashi Takako, and Yoshimoto Banana.
Contributors: Davinder L. Bhowmik, Philip Gabriel, Van C. Gessel, Adrienne Hurley, Susan J. Napier, Sharalyn Orbaugh, Jay Rubin, Atsuko Sakaki, Ann Sherif, Stephen Snyder, Mark Williams, Eve Zimmerman.
Until the early 1980s, the literary category of women's literature (joryu bungaku) segregated most writing by modern Japanese women from the literary canon. Women's literature was viewed as a sentimental and impressionistic literary style that was popular but was critically disparaged.
A close scrutiny of Hayashi Fumiko's work--in particular the two pieces masterfully translated here, the immensely popular novel Horoki (Diary of a Vagabond) and Suisen (Narcissus)--shows the inadequacies of categorizing her writing as women's literature. Its originality and power are rooted in the clarity and immediacy with which Hayashi is able to convey the humanity of those occupying the underside of Japanese society, especially women.
Banned in 1938, Mars' Song has been called the finest example of anti-war fiction written during Japan's march to war in China and the Pacific. In it Ishikawa denounces the chorus of jingoism that swept Japan, and via a metafictional tale within a tale, he warns against the suicidal destruction to which complicity in warmongering will lead. The allegorical Moon Gems, written in the spring of 1945, further explores the tenuous position of the writer moving against the current in a country not only still at war but very near defeat. In The Legend of Gold and The Jesus of the Ruins, both from 1946, Japan has been reduced to a charred wasteland yet Ishikawa envisions destruction as fertile ground for rebirth and resurrection. Finally, the semi-surrealistic novella The Raptor plumbs the meanings and possibilities of peace in the post-Occupation era. William Tyler's eminently readable translations are faithfully expressive of stylistic and tonal nuances in the original works.
In a perceptive introduction and the critical essays that follow, Tyler emphasizes Ishikawa's importance as an anti-establishment--even resistance--writer and argues that the writer's political iconoclasm goes hand-in-hand with the modanizumu of his literary experimentation. The Legend of Gold will be of tremendous importance in enlarging a Western understanding of the development of the writer's role as social critic and the evolution of the modernist movement in postwar Japan.