Sunday, May 4, 2008


田山花袋1871-1930.    『露骨なる描写』 (1904)


『重右衛門の最後』 (1902)
「一兵卒」(1908, 日露戦争の舞台)



Anonymous said...

Tayama Katai! I haven't heard that name in ages! Last time I read his works was in high school-- I think the book was called The quilt and Other Stories / by Tayama Katai ; translated and with an introduction by Kenneth G. Henshall. Imprint [Tokyo] : University of Tokyo Press, c1981. It's been a while though, so I'm not sure.

I do remember there being an Intro, though, in which he talks about Katai's pro-nature/anti-society doctrine, which he got from German naturalism (think Gerhart Hauptmann, Herman Sudermann, and their ideas of a“quintessential nature"). Also influential were Ibsen, Nietzche, and Tolstoy (particularly Tolstoy's primacy of the individual). Yet Katai finds a more balanced view of "nature" in his works: his view changes throughout career.

Katai was born in Gunma (1872), son of a fallen samurai killed in Seinan civil war of 1877. As a youth he showed romantic, lyrical leanings. Was a bit of a good-for-nothing. Sought patronage from Ozaki Kōyō (1867-1903).

The first to show sympathy for the young writer was Senshibankō 千思万考 magazine's editor Emi Suiin, who admired his self-pitying, fatalist qualities.

Katai developed his style of“fiction of altered fact,” and began to dabble in criticism. His
early romantic works were published in “Bungakukai”in the 1890s. He was impressed by Heine, Wordsworth, Zola (admires Zola’s bluntless, frankness, rather than his “objective” scientific style). Tolstoy influence leads to his translating “The Cossacks. Also moved by Maupassant’s blunt descriptions of nature, man in raw state.

Yanagita Kunio arranges marriage for him. Regrets it. She’s “old-fashioned, unstimulating,” he soon complains. Katai works as editor, as his attitude toward his wife, children gradually change:
Let nature be as it is! No more petty subjectivity! (sasai na shukan). No more interference from author! he declares.

Impressed by“superflous man” of Turgenev, Goncharov. Begans to write in Naturalist vein, influenced by Neitzche’s “superman.”(See Hōgestu’s essays on Naturalism, which were also a major influence).

His character "Jūemon" was derived from Sudermann’s “Regine,” or “the Cat’s Bridge” (1890). Modern-hippie aesthetic. Nietzchean mood: Turgenev “ Sportsman’s Diary.”

You still following me?

Katai grows sick of wife: wishes her dead. Letters from Okada Michiyo, a young girl with whom he has affair: story becomes basis for “Futon.”

Hauptmann’s “Lonely People” (1891) influence: misunderstood by old-fashioned wife, has affair.

Shōjobyō: meant to be series: taken as comedy: Sōseki-esque mock-hero.
Shōjobyō: beginning of “real Katai”: no sentimentalism, which arises from suppression of desire, puratinism.

Shimazaki Tōson’s “Hakai” (1906): can’t be left behind! Writes “Futon” in 10 days, July 1907. “Neo-shizenshugi” (clash of self w/ society theme): I novel.

Tōson’s “Ie” follows in 1908: Katai’s “Sei” on mother:“Tsuma” about wife and sister-in-law.

Influential “Shizen shugi no zento” essay in 1908.

Later advocates “heimen byōsha” theory, derived from Kleinmahlerei (arno holz): passivity of artist, mere transmitter of data. Zattafunpun: Maupasant’s “illusionism”: one can’t know another’s thoughts.

“Samui asa”: in many regards “finest work.”

Thus begins his 2nd period: turn to religion. Joris-Karl Huysmans. Accepts 無, accepts 我, but renounces assertive 我, resigned to absence of free-will. See geisha Iida Yone, mistress. Okada Michiyo.

That's all I can remember. Hope that helped.


Anonymous said...


Thanks for the comment! Now that you mention it, I think I once read the same book.

The first story in it is "Jūemon no saigo," written in May of 1902. It's told in the third person: Turgenev talk: “I once met a man” the story begins, and narrator 2 (Tomiyama) soon takes over.

The frame story begins at a school in Kōjimachi, “when I was 16. .” Training for military prep. Sokusei school. 2 country bumpkins in class: from Shinano, near Nagano, living in Ushigome. Befriends the shorter one: Yamagata Kōzaburō. Other one: Sugiyama. Both ran away to Tokyo.

In part 3 they visit their place above bathhouses in Shiochō: meets 3rd kid from Shinano: Nemoto Kōsuke, from disreputable, rich family. Sugiyama fades into ruins, boys grow apart.

Part 4 takes place 5 yrs later: narrator visits Nagano: Mt. Kōsha. Nemoto family search. Visits Kōsuke, now married. Yamagata, now a teacher. Sugiyama is now a swindler, later fighting in war with the Chinese. Walks around peaceful village.

In part 5 sees fire-drill: baffled at spectacle: Runs into Kōsuke. Nemoto house: Kōsuke’s older, ugly wife brings tea, chat about fires, arson.

In part 6 a chat w/ Nemoto: Arsonist known: Jūemon and is hussy, 17. Hussy does it for him. Chat about literature, etc: hear bell: Yamagata’s place on fire?
In Ch 7 house burns: No pump: Arrives, fire controlled. Jūemon, let him drink himself to death. Spots arsonist.

In Ch 8 Fujita Jūemon’s family background: wealthy: Juemon spoiled by grandparents, father beheaded for murder: stung by bee when young, giving him an oversized scrotum! Grandma dies: Nemoto Kōsuke telling him story: Red-light districts (yudanaka) Jūemon’s big balls can’t stay away from. Blows money. Time for wife: things go bad: back to whoring: beats wife: falls in love w/ wife’s mistress? More debauchery: visits Ageo Teishichi in Kamishioyama. Gives Jūemon a talk: start anew! Prison in Nagano for 6 years. Grows bolder. 1 more year for arson.

Chapter 9, 10: all right already, just arrest him: narrator muses on man, nature, unnatural civilized man, Rousseau-esque. 6,000 years of man (haven't we been around longer?): Description of swollen corpse, huge balls. Hussy takes corpse. Narrator alone sympathizes w/ “child of nature” hussy and corpse. Rousseau-esque talk.
In Ch 12 whole village burns that night. Hussy found in flames. Suicide? Murdered by angry villagers? 7 years now past, narrator still makes visits to town.

Anonymous said...

I remember that one. But what about the most famous story-- The Quilt (Futon), 1907?

Here's what I remember:

Chapters 1-11 told in 3rd person. “He”=Takenaka Tokio, 36, has wife, 3 kids. Editor of geographical magazine.

Yoshiko is a young student, fan of Tokio, 19, from Christian family in Bitchū: “modern high-collar girl”: object of Tokio's desire.

Chapter one is set in Koishikawa. Tokio a man of letters, references Hauptmann’s “Lovely People,”Turgenev's “Faust," etc.
He is sick of wife: sees hot girls everywhere: expects fan Yoshiko to be ugly: surprised when she arrives in Tokyo in Feb: new modern englightened woman (desire to have by side, to tickle his vanity). Compared unfavorably to boring yamato nadeshiko. Stays at Tokio’s for month, then moves
1 year and a half passes: now lives in Kōjimachi: has male friends: (compare to other "modern girls": Ibsen’s Nora, Turgenev’s Elena, Tanizaki's Naomi). Yoshiko turns gaudy, seductive. Has lover, Tanaka Hideo, Dōshisha Student. Tokio wallows: “I am Turgenev’s superfluous man!” Drinks to stupor.

Part four: letter from Yoshiko in new style. Tanaka coming to Tokyo.

5-11: Tokio snoops around, paranoid: abuses wife. Finds out about Yoshiko's affair w/ Tanaka. Brings Yoshiko’s family into it: poses as “moral advisor” to get into her pants: fails. Yoshiko goes back home. Last scene: he lies on her old bed, smelling “that familiar female smell.”

That's all I remember. Hope that helps.


Anonymous said...

You guys are forgetting the other stories! One cannot forget "One Soldier" (Ippeisotsu), written in 1908, and told in the 3rd person by a soldier who, sick in Manchū, has flashbacks to childhood, countryside, mother. The scene takes place after a battle at Liaoyang: crickets trigger more memories of mother, wife, other women, Kagurazaka, Nakachō (girl): he considers his options: desertion? prays, trapped in prison of war. Runs into 2 upper-privates, changes course.

Lost, he collapses, gazes at stars. Finds western buildings. His beri-beri is bad, his legs ache. “The pain,” he cries: doctor comes at daybreak: soldier already dead.

Morning-attack on Liaoyang already begun (1908).

One of best short stories about war in modern literature.

Keep up with the great blog, Ryan!

Anonymous said...

What about Shōjobyō (1907)!? One of the best sukebe-banashi every told!

The story, as I recall, is in 5 parts, told in the third person by Sugita, hero of story, 38, who is married to a 25 year old "withered" wife: has two kids.

Sugita is obsessed with young girls on train: he is a romantic novelist, poet, and works as editor for popular magazine.

Setting: Yamanote-sen train. Last scene: train crowded, pushed out of cart, eyes fixed on girl. Transfixed, he is run over by next train. Dies in end.

And what about "Senro" (1912)? It's another story about someone run over by train: Train stops: was it a child? Style of prose like a prose poem: blood: dismembered bodies: flowers.

In the fourth section, women comment on the body. The fifth section gives a view from train: new passengers informed of accident: witnesses alight: new conversation: ends with image of china pink flowers.

And one cannot forget "Shashin" (1909), in which a group of soldiers go to Gyōkeikan looking for something to do: Near sea: In middle of nichiro Jap-Jusso war: tourist spot.

There is the gat private: the refined man in neighboring room, ill: A rather boring slice-of-life story. Takes picture w/ Kodak in end.

There is also "Kuruma no oto" (1908), but I don't remember anything from this story.

Finally there is "Samui Asa" (1914) about a family: kids set mouse-trap: bed-time: awake at morning: mouse still there: Mom teases it with food: Boys drown mouse, march to school triumphantly.

These are my notes. Do as you please with them.


Anonymous said...

One thing I'd like to add. I recently read Literary life in Tokyo, 1885-1915 : Tayama Katai's memoirs 'Thirty years in Tokyo' / translated with full annotations and an introduction by Kenneth G. Henshall. 1987. It is a translation of Katai's「東京三十年」, and it has all kinds of valuable info about "Futon" and other works. HEre are my notes on the book.

布団 (1907) “The Quilt”: groundbreaking: rebellious “I”: Not a naturalist, but a writer at the heyday of Naturalism (1907-1910) (26).

Inspired by I novelist Alphonse Daudet’s "30 Years in Paris."
Addresses Great fire of Kanda 1892, April 9-10.

Also, see:
a) 早稲田文学 magazine: 6 phases: 1891-1959.
b) しらがみ草紙, めさまし草 magazines.
c) Maruzen: homo-lunatic 中西梅花 (1866-1898) 詩人
d) 平面描写 from Kleinmahlerei (miniature painting style).
e) “natural subjectivity”: death of cow as significant as death of hero.


Ryan said...

Those notes are just from the intro, Frank! Did you even read the whole book?!