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a flourishing black-market trade in this commodity, most of which seems
to have come from surplus Japanese army and navy supplies.
One especially strong demand that arose in reaction to the nationalistic
exclusivism and xenophobia of the militarist years was for new translations of Western literature, both classical and contemporary. Before the
war, Western literature in Japan had been represented chiefly by French,
English, German, and Russian writings, but owing to the United States’s
dominant role in the war and Occupation, American literature was for
the first time also comprehensively explored by the Japanese. Major
writers such as William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway drew the most
serious and sustained attention, while current American best-sellers about
the war, such as John Hersey’s Hiroshima and Norman Mailer’s The
Naked and the Dead, enjoyed great popularity. In addition to American
literature, the writings of Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and their philo- 308 Culture in the Present Age sophic precursor Sören Kierkegaard attracted considerable readership
among Japanese intellectuals who, spiritually adrift, discerned a new
truth in the doctrines of Existentialism.
In assessing the native postwar literature, Japanese critics commonly
discuss it in terms of an explosion in mass communications. Referring to
a process much more dynamic than the prewar exposure to mass culture, they speak of reaching out to a truly mass audience and of a
heightened sensitivity to the need to deal with mass social problems.
Among the organizations calling for the expansion of literary horizons in
a spirit of postwar liberation and renovation was the Shin-Nihon Bungakkai (Society for a New Japanese Literature). Attracting some of its
membership from the suppressed prewar movement of proletarian writers,
the society pronounced democracy to be the highest literary ideal, implying thereby a rejection of most prewar movements in literature, including
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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