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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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“I should like to begin by laying special emphasis on what may appear at first glance almost a truism, the importance of not placing any reliance at all on the indirect evidence furnished by translated texts. Translated words and sentences are partial equivalents at the very most. They may serve as rough-and-ready guides to our fumbling first steps, but in many cases they are quite inadequate and even misleading. And in any case they can never afford a reliable basis, for discussion of the structure of the ethical world-view of a people […] however, if we are but reminded that even when we are actually reading a text in the original we tend almost unconsciously to read into it our own concepts fostered by our mother tongue, and thus to transmute many, if not all, of its key terms into equivalent terms obtainable in our native language. But if we do this, we are, in reality, doing nothing more than understanding the original text in a translation; we are, in other words, manipulating translated concepts without being aware of it”.

From Ethico-Religious Concepts in the Qur'an by Toshihiko Izutsu1

The warning against undue reliance on translation quoted above may seem to contradict the main thrust of this book, namely, that by reading through literature in translation the responses of Japanese to various disasters and tragedies that occurred in the modern era we come to a deeper understanding of what these events signify to the people of Japan;...

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