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Three-Dimensional Reading: Stories of Time and Space in Japanese Modernist Fiction, 1911-1932

by Elliott Samuels

Staff Writer

The rapid industrialization that accompanied the Meiji Era (1867-1912) inspired a new generation of writers in Japan who were more than willing to break with tradition and explore intellectual ideas. The 14 authors selected for this anthology took this to the extreme, presenting hitherto unheard of temporal and spatial dimensions in ways that broadened our understanding of the world around us between the inter-war years of the 1910s to the 1930s. The stories are reflective of the immense change that was occurring in Japanese society at the time, with such storylines as a wandering underdog’s perspective of a post-impressionist landscape comprised of orbs and cubes, and an imaginary room of sick people born entirely out of sounds heard by an invalid.

Three-Dimensional Reading: Stories of Time and Space in Japanese Modernist Fiction, 1911-1932, Anthology edited by Angela Yiu, UNIVERSITY OF HAWAI’I PRESS

“Three-Dimensional Reading: Stories of Time and Space in Japanese Modernist Fiction, 1911-1932″ includes literary heavyweights such as Natsume Soseki (of “I Am a Cat” fame), Junichiro Tanizaki and Ryunosuke Akutagawa as well as the country’s first winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, Yasunari Kawabata, who is revered for his masterful approach to psychological fiction. Tanizaki’s contribution to the anthology, “A Golden Death,” is a particularly outlandish tale that parodies everything from materialism and mass consumption to an insatiable appetite for exoticism and foreign products. All in all, the anthology paints an interesting portrait of where the writers thought the world was heading in the future. Looking back now, they probably weren’t too far off the mark.