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Unformatted text preview: prose writing in Japan free of didacticism and devoted to the realistic portrayal of human emotions (ninjò) and the actual conditions of life. Even
the supposedly enlightened authors of contemporary political novels dealt
only with stereotypical characters who were motivated by the desire to
“reward virtue and punish vice.” Writers of the new fiction must seek to
penetrate the wellsprings of individual behavior and reveal it, with candor,
in all its manifestations.
Unfortunately, Tsubouchi, although a first-rate critic, was himself
unable to produce the kind of modern novel that he so vigorously advocated. His book The Character of Present-day Students (Tòsei Shosei
Katagi), written in conjunction with The Essence of the Novel, deals with
the lives and loves of students at Tokyo Imperial University in the early
1880s; but, despite Tsubouchi’s efforts to delineate the psychological
complexities of the students he was portraying, the work is very similar to
the superficial character sketches and witty books of Tokugawa authors.
The kind of modern novel Tsubouchi had in mind was in fact written
by his friend and disciple, Futabatei Shimei (1864–1904). Futabatei,
born in Edo the son of a samurai a few years before the Meiji Restoration,
studied Russian from 1881 until 1886 at a school for foreign languages
sponsored by the Meiji government. His extraordinary talent for languages enabled him to excel at the school and gave rise to his decision to
become a full-time translator and writer. Futabatei’s translations from the Encounter with the West 261 Russian of such authors as Turgenev, begun in the mid-1880s, were of
prime importance in the literary history of the Meiji period; for they
were the first renderings of Western literature into Japanese that can
truly be called translations. In the free adaptations of other early and midMeiji translators, large sections were often either omitted or added and
sometimes only the most essential plot of a book was retained. Beginning with Futabatei, Japanese translation of the literature of the West
became a genuinely professional pursuit.
Immediately after finishing his studies at the foreign language school...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13