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

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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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8. The 2011 East Japan Earthquake and Literature: Contemporary Poetry Handbook 2011–2014

Chapter Eight

Extract

Spatial discontinuity boosting morphological divergence. It’s a situation that reminds me of Gide’s reflections on the form of the novel at the time he was writing The Counterfeiters: granted that the novel is a slice of life, he muses, why should we always slice “in the direction of length”, emphasizing the passage of time? Why not slice in the direction of width, and of the multiplicity of simultaneous events? Length, plus width: this is how a tree signifies. And you […] cannot help but wonder: which is the most significant axis, here—the vertical, or the horizontal? Diachronic succession, or synchronic drifting apart? This perceptual uncertainty between time and (mortho) space—this impossibility, in fact, of really “seeing” them both at once—is the sign of a new conception of literary history, in which literature moves forwards and sideways at once; often, more sideways than forwards.

From Franco Moretti, Graphs, Maps, Trees 1

The massive earthquake that occurred on the afternoon of 11 March 2011 off the coast of northeast Japan, the subsequent tsunami, and other tragedies resulting from this cataclysmic event (including the meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant) have been extensively documented in thousands of books and articles published in Japanese, and hundreds of books published in other languages, including English (not to mention the explosion of images from TV, mobile phones, the Internet etc that are still widely available and were viewed by hundreds of millions at the time, both inside...

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