Japan Literature 2

With the end of the war in 1945 and the regained freedom, there was an immediate revival of literary activities. Tendencies and ideas that had previously inspired the Japanese literary world reappear, which resumed with the international one the contacts interrupted during the conflict; periodicals that have already been suspended or suppressed come out again, others appear; they begin to write and publish authors who had already reached artistic maturity, such as Kawabata, Tanizaki, Nagai, who will dominate the literary scene in the following decades; others are now fully affirming themselves, and young people are beginning to emerge. Many of the former do not seem to have been touched by the experience of war, of which no trace is found in their works, as if they had taken refuge in themselves while ignoring external reality. This is the case of Nagai Kafū, Odoriko (The dancer); by Tanizaki, with Sasameyuki (Thin Snow), who had been suspended in 1943 after the first episode; of Kawabata with Senbazuru (Mille gru 1949-51). A writer sensitive to the outside world is Dazai Osamu (1909-48), already active before the war, who now affirms himself by treating, under the influence of the times and the personal crisis he is going through, the conflict between his feelings and reality.. This is how Shay ō (The sun goes out, 1947), Ningen Shikkaku (The disqualified), Ō t ō (Cherries), and Viyon no Tsuma were born. (Villon’s wife), representative works written in the last two years of his life, based on an acute observation of man and permeated by a melancholy typical of the Japanese tradition. He also wrote plays: Fuyu no Hanabi (Fireworks in winter, 1946), Haru no Kareha (Dry leaves in spring, 1947). Renowned playwright is Kinoshita Junji (born in 1914), author of dramas mainly of historical and folkloric subjects, in which he demonstrates a deep understanding of popular traditions; some have been adapted for classical, Nō and Kabuki theater. The most famous is Y ū zuru (The crane in the evening, 1949), in one act, from which the opera of the same name was taken.

The first-person novel also reappears, becoming a means of expressing the sense of futility and the spiritual crisis of the times, acquiring a wider breath than its pure subjectivism had in the past. A typical example is the works of Ō oka Sh ō hei(born in 1909) on his experiences of war, which combine lyricism and observation of reality; the most famous is Nobi (Fires on the fields, 1952).

Other representative post-war writers are Shiina Rinzō (1911-1973), who feels the influence of existentialism and re-proposes the value of the individual, with Shin’ya no Sh ū en (Banquet in the middle of the night, 1947), and Eien naru Josh ō(Eternal Prologue, 1948); Noma Hiroshi (born 1915), in whose best works, Shink ō Chitai (Zone of the void, 1952), and Seinen no Wa (The circle of youth, started in the early postwar years and completed in 1971), the contrasting influences of the Buddhism in which he was raised, the Marxism he came into contact with during his university studies, and existentialism are evident. Finally, a large group of young people endowed with notable personalities, among which Mishima Yukiō (1925-1970) stands out, who takes an independent position, despite being influenced by the Japanese romantic school. Abe Kōbō (born in 1924), an avant-garde writer of a cosmopolitan character, foreign to the Japanese literary tradition, draws attention to himself with Na mo Naki Yono Tame ni (For a world without a name, 1948), and Kabe (The wall, 1951), and gains full recognition with Suna no Onna (La donna delle dune, 1962), which deals with the theme of unreality; followed by Tanin no Kao (The face of others, 1964), and Moetsukita Chizu (The Burnt Map, 1967).

In the meantime, while the country proceeds on the path of reconstruction, the concept that the man of letters should write for a small circle of connoisseurs is being changed and it is instead affirmed that the writer must address the public in general, respond to and be inspired by that that it expects of him. We are moving towards a type of novel intended as a form of popular entertainment, a genre that receives great impetus from the renewed and growing demand for literary works for newspapers and periodicals and from the great favor with which they are received. Representative of this trend is the F ū zoku sh ō setsu, a costume novel, which portrays the world and society of the time with frankness and realism. Kiky ō(Homecoming, 1948), by Osaragi Jirō (1897-1973), already active before the war, is a typical example of a high-level popular novel, written with a clear and elegant style; the theme of war and the tragedies it provoked makes a profound impression. Other works of his to mention are Munekata Kyodai (The Munekata Sisters, 1949), and his latest, of a historical nature, Tenn ō no Seiki (The Imperial Century, 1973). Takami Jun also becomes one of the most prolific writers of this genre, but then concludes his long literary career with a completely different work, Iyana Kanji (Unpleasant sensation, 1960-63), a kind of spiritual autobiography in which the contrasts between individual and social expression that had plagued the writers of his generation are reflected.

In the 1950s, stability and rapid progress in every field influenced the literary environment; The generations matured after the end of the war begin to emerge, with writers gifted with sensitivity and a keen sense of observation, very attentive to the st-le. On the other hand, a certain commercialism prevails, with the tendency to put literature at the service of mass communications; a typical example is Taiy ō no Kisetsu (The season of the sun, 1959) first work by Ishihara Shintarō (born in 1932), which is a sensation and has very notable awards, despite deficiencies and immaturity.

According to harvardshoes, the new material prosperity creates a spiritual emptiness that leads some writers to look at reality with a negative attitude and to express the loneliness of man in a new type of first-person novel, such as Yasuoka Shōtarō (born in 1920), with Umibe no F ū kei (Scenes from the coast, 1959); Shōno Junzō (born in 1921) with Y ū be no Kumo (Clouds in the evening, 1965). Endō Shōsaku (born 1923) in Shiroi Hito (The White Man, 1955), followed by Kiiroi Hito (The Yellow Man), deals with the issue of relations between races based on his personal experience as a student in France, while in Chinmoku (Silenzio, 1966) proposes the problem of the religiosity of the Japanese.

Other writers, referring back to the pre-war proletarian school, affirm the political and social commitment of literature, such as Nakano Shigeharu, who deals with the problems of left-wing intellectuals in K ō otsu hei tei (A, B, C, D, 1969). Ōe Kenzaburō (born in 1935), tries to present modern man with acute sensitivity, in works that, despite being influenced by Sartre, have their own originality, including Kojintekina Taiken (A personal experience, 1964), and Man’en Gannen no Futtob ō ru (1st year football of the Man’en era, 1967), which aroused considerable interest.

Japan Literature 2