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Unformatted text preview: r works of art and, especially in the case of the Post-Impressionists, to the artists themselves. The uncompromising individualism of
men like Van Gogh and Gauguin and their willingness, for the sake of
personal ideals, to flout all artistic and social conventions profoundly impressed their Japanese admirers. Such individualism—unusual in the West
and almost totally alien to the Japanese tradition—appealed particularly
to the White Birch writers, with their cosmopolitan sentiments, and was
one of the themes most vigorously promoted in essays on art that appeared in Shirakaba.
A writer of major importance associated with the White Birch group
—although he really had little in common with someone like Mushanokòji, apart from the fact that they were lifelong friends—was Shiga Naoya
(1883–1971). Shiga’s great fame rests on a rather meager literary output,
consisting mostly of short stories and one full-length novel, A Dark Night’s
Passing (An’ya Kòro).16 The latter, however, is a masterpiece, and is probably the most successful work in the Japanese category of the I-novel.
Shiga’s principal subject was invariably himself. As a well-known Japanese critic has remarked: “. . . no one has adhered so scrupulously as he
has to the approach of the personal novel [shishòsetsu or I-novel], in which
the logic of everyday life becomes the logic of literary creation.”17 This
idea of the logic of everyday life can be observed in A Dark Night’s Pass- 286 The Fruits of Modernity ing, which has no plot in the proper sense of the word but is simply a
narrative of several years in the life of a young writer, Kensaku. The circumstances and events of the book are not identical with those of Shiga’s
own life, but they are similar; and the personage of Kensaku, as William
Sibley discusses in his monograph The Shiga Hero, is the prototype of the
main male character in all of Shiga’s writings.
Like Shiga himself, Kensaku is not particularly intellectual. Rather,
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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