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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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4. War in China and the Pacific: Takamura Kōtarō, Kusano Shinpei and the Matinée Poétique

Chapter Four


“He worked for war, who hated war, and died.

The blind or seeing hand that shoots or steers

Is nerved with hope: so was that active head

Through all these murderous years.”

—William Plomer, from “In a Bombed House”1

To consider the poetics of war or the aesthetic dimension of literature composed during wartime or written to advocate war, and assess the trauma caused by war itself as expressed in such literature, is a difficult and demanding task. Consideration of these issues naturally raises ethical or moral issues, as ethics and morality become part of the evaluative criteria that pass judgment on works produced during wartime and also in the postwar era that take war as their theme. Many literary critics have argued that the intellectual or artist must be faithful to the truth. George Steiner has written: “No city, no nation, no loyalty is worth a lie.”2 Tim Redman in his 1991 book on Ezra Pound and fascism cites these lines in support of the proposition that Pound firmly believed in the lies of fascism, which brings into doubt the notion of truth as a sufficient standard to evaluate art, but only if we equate truth with belief.3 If belief is insufficient to the truth, then, can we pass judgment on war literature? Here, it is possible for moral critique can shift to an aesthetic mode and critique literature for failing to express the truth.

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