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The Writing of Disaster - Literary Representations of War, Trauma and Earthquakes in Modern Japan


Leith Morton

This book analyzes the literature that emerged from World War II. It also examines the literature that resulted from the two major earthquakes that have struck Japan over the course of over the last hundred years. The small number of volumes previously published examining the literature of war and earthquakes in Japan have almost always focused exclusively on fiction while this volume focuses mainly on poetry. This volume breaks new ground in its attempt to draw together and analyze the literature produced by these tragedies as a single phenomenon. It provides a new template for the literature of trauma produced by such events as the earthquake that accompanied the tsunami and nuclear meltdown in northeast Japan in 2011.

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3. War, Memory, Trauma, Fiction, Truth: Kusaba Sakae at Nomonhan, 1939

Chapter Three


Duty is weightier than a mountain,

Death is lighter than a feather

—Imperial Precepts to Soldiers and Sailors (1882)1 Nomonhan was one of the most important, and one of the most savage battles that Japan initiated during the course of the Fifteen Years War. From May to September 1939 , Japan and the Soviet Union engaged in what started out as a small border clash but quickly escalated into a large undeclared war on the Mongolian plains near 2 Nomonhan. 2 Both countries committed tens of thousands of troops, and hundreds of tanks and airplanes. Lieutenant Colonel Charles Otterstedt (U. S. Army) wrote of the strategic significance of the battle in his article “The Kwantung Army and The No - monhan Incident: Its Impact On National Security”, published in 2000:

The tactical outcome of the confrontation sided with the Soviets. The superior artillery, armor, and air support, coupled with the near-brilliant orchestration of the campaign by General Zhukov, provided the Soviets a decisive victory. From a strategic point, the Nomonhan lncident had far-reaching consequences for Japan and the Soviet Union. As Dr. Edward Drea pointed out, “Although Japan's decision to execute its go south strategy [in 1941] was predominately predicated on economic factors, the Nomonhan lncident of 1939 was a definite factor in Japan's decision to switch from its traditional go north strategy and adopt the ‘go south’ strategy.” Even the Soviet historian Ponomaryov and colleagues concluded that “the defeat inflicted by the Red...

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