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Unformatted text preview: in 1886, the still unknown Futabatei boldly called upon Tsubouchi to
discuss the literary matters raised by the latter in The Essence of the Novel.
Thus began a warm and lasting friendship between the two men that
provided, among other things, the conditions necessary for Futabatei to
embark upon the writing of the first modern Japanese novel, The Drifting Cloud (Ukigumo), published in installments between 1887 and 1889.
The Drifting Cloud is a realistic novel, written in a colloquial style, that
has a unified and sustained plot and probes the feelings and psychological motivations of its principal characters. It is the story of Bunzò, a government clerk who lives in the home of his aunt and who loves and
hopes to marry his cousin, Osei. As the story opens, Bunzò has lost his
job, much to the disgust of the aunt, who has never been particularly
fond of him and is now convinced that he is a failure. Bunzò’s apparent
inability to get ahead in a generation of Japanese striving madly to
achieve the fame and fortune promised by modernity stands in sharp
contrast to the prospects of Noboru, a colleague who has received a promotion just as Bunzò is fired. Clearly, Noboru is the new Meiji man,
while Bunzò is a pathetic example of those who inevitably fall the victims of progress. When Noboru visits the aunt’s home, he predictably
causes new difficulties, for the aunt sees in him the ideal match for her
daughter, and Osei herself, a flighty and superficial person, responds by
rejecting Bunzò and entering into a flirtation with Noboru. Unfortunately, Futabatei’s handling of the later stages in the plot of The Drifting
Cloud is clumsy and unconvincing. The Osei-Noboru flirtation peters out
and, in the end, Bunzò, who has been immobilized by events, is encouraged by a mere smile from Osei to anticipate a reconciliation with her.
For all its faults, however, The Drifting Cloud remains an epochal work
that inaugurated realistic fictional writing in modern Japan.
While Tsubouchi Shòyò and Futabatei Shimei were thus taking the
pioneer steps in creating a new f...
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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