The Oxford Guide to Contemporary Writing

By John Sturrock | Go to book overview

17
JAPAN

MARK MORRIS

THE most respected writer at work in Japan today is Oe Kenzaburo (b. 1935), who in 1994 received the Nobel Prize for literature. Since the late 1950s, as part of a generation of talented writer-intellectuals, he has produced millions of words in the form of fiction, criticism, political essays, journalism, and several genres yet to be classified. Still this side of 60, Oe has hinted strongly all the same that he will one day probably stop writing fiction altogether.

There is in such a statement little echo of the narcissism of Mishima Yukio ( 1925-70) -- Oe's literary and political rival throughout the 1960s -- who contrived to end his life with a spectacular suicide and his career with the four-part The Sea of Fertility ( 1965-71). Oe's sense of resignation reflects, rather, the fact that in Japan, as in many advanced capitalist countries, the culture of the written word is in retreat. In the context of contemporary Japan, such potential silence can only be interpreted as a rebuke directed at the institution of literature, which in recent years has, it seems, been invaded massively by both the values and the languages of the market-place, and gradually stripped of its once considerable imaginative and critical assets.

Nan to naku kurisutaru (' Somehow, Crystal') was a huge best-seller in 1981. Ostensibly a story about a fashion model and her love life, what made it a best-seller was its annotations, 442 notes detailing such things as brand names, trendy shops, cafés, and other items from the affluent landscape inhabited by its yuppie author, Tanaka Yasuo (b. 1956). Here, realized publishers and advertising men, was an entire pilgrimage route for the sort of self-conscious hyper-consumption which Japanese apologists were beginning to call Post-Modern living.

When Murakami Haruki (b. 1949) published his best-selling Noruwe no mori (' Norwegian Wood', 1987), more flair seemed to go into the packaging -- contrasting red and green covers to catch the Christmas shoppers -- than

____________________
With Japanese names, the surname comes before the given name.

-268-

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The Oxford Guide to Contemporary Writing
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Editor's Introduction vii
  • List of Contributors ix
  • 1 - African Countries 1
  • Further Reading 21
  • 2 - Arab Countries 22
  • Further Reading 38
  • 3 Australia 39
  • 4 - Brazil 56
  • Further Reading 65
  • 5 - Canada 66
  • Further Reading 81
  • 6 - China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong 83
  • Further Reading 99
  • 7 - Czech Republic and Slovakia 101
  • Further Reading 111
  • 8 - England 113
  • Further Reading 141
  • 9 - France 142
  • Further Reading 164
  • 10 - German-Speaking Countries 165
  • Further Reading 183
  • 11 Greece 184
  • Further Reading 193
  • 12 - Hungary 194
  • Further Reading 203
  • 13 - India 204
  • Further Reading 220
  • 14 - Ireland 221
  • Further Reading 237
  • 15 - Israel 238
  • Further Reading 248
  • 16 - Italy 250
  • Further Reading 267
  • 17 - Japan 268
  • Further Reading 283
  • 18 New Zealand 284
  • Further Reading 299
  • 19 - Poland 301
  • Further Reading 310
  • 20 - Portugal 311
  • Further Reading 320
  • 21 - Russia 321
  • Further Reading 338
  • 22 - Scandinavia 340
  • Further Reading 360
  • 23 - Scotland 361
  • Further Reading 376
  • 24 - Spain 377
  • Further Reading 390
  • 25 - Spanish America 391
  • Further Reading 405
  • 26 United States 406
  • Further Reading 431
  • 27 - Wales 432
  • Further Reading 446
  • 28 - West Indies 447
  • Further Reading 465
  • Index 467
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