Japan Literature Part II

By | January 6, 2022

In Japan the literary prizes are numerous and play a very important function in defining the genres to which they belong, in guaranteeing the visibility of the authors and in the construction of their symbolic legitimacy. In 2007 Ōe Kenzaburō published Rōtashi Anaberu Rii sōkedachitsu mimakaritsu (trad. It. The eternal virgin, 2011), characterized by an intricate network of allusions to the works of Edgar Allan Poe and other Western writers who have always inspired him, and from a narrative structure that mixes real and fictional characters. Suishi (2009, Death in the water) and Bannen yōshikishū. In reito sutairu (2013, In late style) are exemplary of what he himself defined, taking up the expression of Edward Said, his ‘late style’, in the sense of an old age not reconciled with his own time and which continues to conceive the writing as an instrument of criticism and denunciation. In this last work, Ōe Kenzaburō takes up the disturbing question of contemporary writers: what writing is possible after the events of 3.11?

According to the literary critic Ichikawa Makoto, Abe Katsushige (b.1968) can be considered the heir of that fiction which – starting with the modern writers of the twentieth century and then with Ōe Kenzaburō – remained alive even in the first decade of the 21st century. , continuing to focus on the irreconcilable conflict between a modern conception of the individual and the development of a society and a nation in step with the West. In 2004 Abe Katsushige was awarded the Akutagawa prize with Gurando Fināre (Grand finale). In 2010 with the publication of Pisutoruzu (Pistilli), Abe has completed his ‘Jinmachi saga’, set in the country of origin in the North of the Japan, a story of people and places between realism and magical and fantastic dimensions. In the same vein, Isozaki Ken’ichirō (b.1965novel Tsui no sumika (2009, The Last Abode), winner of the Akutagawa prize in 2009, and Kueki ressha (2011, known as The drudgery train in the film adaptation) directed by Nobuhiro Yamashita in 2012) by Nishimura Kenta (b. 1967), winner of the same prize in 2011, who with this autobiographical novel has reaffirmed the vitality of shishōsetsu (“novel of the self”), the predominant literary genre of Japanese literature modern.

According to Healthinclude, writers whose debut dates back to the Eighties-Nineties, such as Kakuta Mitsuyo (b.1967), Yoshida Shūichi (b.1968) or Kirino Natsuo (b.1951), are notable for a decisive detachment from the canons of the previous ‘modern’ literature. Yōkame no seeds (2007; trad. It. The cicada of the eighth day, 2014) by Kakuta and Akunin (2007, The criminal) by Yoshida combine a very structured narrative, in the style of the detective novel, a deep psychological digging into the character characters that captivate and involve readers, leading them to reflect on contemporary society and the evils that afflict it. Kakuta released Kumachan in 2009(Mr. Bear), a collection of stories that delve into existential and relational issues, as well as the more recent Hisoyaka na hanazono (2010, The Quiet Flower Garden), Nakushita mono tachi no kuni (2010, The land of lost things) and Tsurī hausu (2010, Three houses). The latter is a historical novel that marks a turning point in its production, inserting itself in a trend that in recent years has regained strength due to the ability to reflect the contemporary crisis through past events. By Yoshida, known for Pāku raifu (Park life, Akutagawa prize 2002), is also the novel Ikari (Anger) of 2014, the story of a crime based on a real news story.

Kirino Natsuo won the Tanizaki award in 2008 with Tōkyō-jima (The Tōkyō Island) which tells a story of survival on a desert island, as a metaphor for the condition of man today; the intent of denunciation emerges from the description of the island as an inverted image of the contemporary metropolis. In 2009 he published In (In), a novel close to the style of shishōsetsu, which confirms the writer’s attempt to overcome popular fiction for a more traditional literature. She then obtained the 2010 Yomiuri award with Nanika aru (Something), a novel about Hayashi Fumiko, a famous writer of the first half of the twentieth century.

Of this new generation, we also remember the most popular mystery writer Isaka Kōtarō (b.1971), famous for his manga, who stands out for the novels Shinigami no seido (2005, The accuracy of death) and Gōruden Suranbā (2007 , Golden slumbers), winner of the Yamamoto Shūgorō award and then adapted for the screen in 2010 under the direction of Yoshihiro Nakamura. The most recent PK (2012) includes three stories ranging from the supernatural to contemporary politics, science fiction and which always place the characters in front of ethical dilemmas, an expression of the anxiety of the post 3.11.

The same depth of vision, in a science fiction plot that intertwines possible future worlds with geopolitical strategies of the present narrative, is found in Don (2009, Dawn) by Hirano Keiichirō (b. 1975). The writer, already known to the public for his first novel Nisshoku (1999, Solar Eclipse) which earned him the Akutagawa prize when he was still a student, in the following years confirmed his counter-current tendency in the use of a complex style and language. refined. His novel Kūhaku or mitashinasai (2012, Fill the gaps) in the narrative form of the thriller leads the reader to reflect on a dramatic problem in his country, the existential unease that is at the origin of the high number of suicides reported every year by the statistics.

In 2010, the last work of the great comic writer Inoue Hisashi (1934-2010), Isshūkan (One Week) was released, which confirmed his ability to describe with an ironic touch even dramatic historical events such as the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in 1946. and the imprisonment of Japanese soldiers that lasted many years after the war ended.

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