Dialogic Imagination of Tenkô Novel as Seen through Murayama Tomoyoshi's "White Nights"
(University of Tsukuba)
Paper short abstract:
The tenkô novel is considered a form of the autobiographical I-novel genre. I reevaluate this understanding by examining the dialogic relation between Dostoyevsky's and Murayama Tomoyoshi's "White Nights" and analyzing the novella's polyphonic narrative structure.
Paper long abstract:
In May 1934, Murayama Tomoyoshi, a representative artist and writer in both the avant-garde art and proletarian theatre movements, published the work "White Nights" (Byakuya). This novella has been recognized as the first "tenkô novel," the emerging genre comprised of works mostly written by proletarian writers who had committed tenkô (ideological recantation); Murayama had recanted his leftist political views in order to be released from prison in December 1933. "White Nights" focuses on the relationship of a socialist named Kano with his wife Noriko during the period prior to his arrest and his release. This novella is characterized by its biting and humorous depiction of the protagonist's egotism. It was apparent to readers of the time that this was Murayama's self-portrait. Because of its autobiographical elements, this text has been discussed as a variation of the "I-novel" genre, and other tenkô novels have been considered similarly. However, "White Nights" has many aspects that do not fully fit into the concept of "I-novel." For example, the only first-person narrator ("I") in this novella is Noriko, who criticizes Kano's egotism and confesses her love for their comrade to him over the one-fourth pages of the whole text. Further, it can be read as an adaptation of Dostoevsky's "Belye noči," which was first translated in 1920 in Japan under the very same title, "Byakuya." In this story, a "dreamer" living in St. Petersburg falls in unrequired love with a girl who waits her fiancé to come back from Moscow on a white night. Dostoevsky wrote this romance in 1848 when he sympathized with utopian socialism while connected to the famous Petrashevsky circle. The purpose of my paper is to, by analyzing Murayama's "White Nights," consider the "tenkô novel" from an alternate perspective than the usual "I-novel" frame. To do so, I will discuss the dialogic characteristics of this text by exploring the voice of Noriko and by demonstrating its relation to Dostoevsky's "White Nights."
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