Landscape as History: Nosaka Akiyuki and the "Burned-out Ruins/Black Markets Generation"
Michael Molasky (Waseda University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores how novelist Nosaka Akiyuki deployed the trope "burned-out ruins/black markets" in his writing to challenge dominant narratives of postwar history—regardless of whether those narratives emphasize "continuity" or on "disjuncture" between the prewar and postwar eras.
Paper long abstract:
The idiosyncratic writer and all-around provocateur, Nosaka Akiyuki (1930-2015), famously remarked in his 1967 acceptance speech for the Naoki Literary Prize, that he viewed his work as belonging to the "Burned-out Ruins/Black Markets" (yakeato/yamiichi-ha) school of postwar Japanese literature. Of course, no such a "school" existed until Nosaka coined the term at that time, and it is unclear whether any other writer ever joined him. Yet an entire generation of Japanese maintained powerful memories of the iconic urban postwar landscapes evoked in Nosaka's phrase. Arguably, no contemporary Japanese writer demonstrated such a consistent commitment to interrogating the fraught relationship between personal and social memory, or to exploring how fictional narratives might complicate popular understandings of national history. This paper explores how Nosaka's rhetorical use of the trope "burned-out ruins/black markets" in his stories, essays, and published dialogues serves to challenge dominant narratives of postwar history—regardless of whether those narratives emphasize "continuity" or "disjuncture" between the prewar and postwar eras. I argue, in fact, that Nosaka reveals such debates over "continuity vs. disjuncture" to be reductivist and simplistic, rooted as they are in a binary opposition that relies on a linear conception of historical time. Nosaka, in contrast, exposes how the postwar is thoroughly constituted by the war and defeat, and he further shows us how the past can suddenly and unpredictably erupt into individual consciousness as traumatic memory, disrupting popular assumptions about time and place, history and memory, and thereby questioning—while he himself relies on—the usefulness of signifiers such as "era" (jidai) in shaping our understanding about the past and its relationship to the present.
Out of Step and Out of Time: Insurgent and Abject Cultures ca. 1923, 1945, 1968