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Decadent Literature in Twentieth-Century Japan

by Elliott Samuels

Staff Writer

Decadent Literature in Twentieth-Century Japan, by Ikuho Amano.
Palgrave Macmillan, Academic.

Japan is not generally believed to be a decadent society, and yet there are certain periods in its history when phases of moral decay were accompanied by a surge in “aesthetic indulgence.” The bubble era of the late ’80s and early ’90s is the most obvious example of such self-indulgence, pleasure and money, but economic and social excess was also prevalent throughout much of the 20th century. In “Decadent Literature in Twentieth-Century Japan: Spectacle of Idle Labor,” professor Ikuho Amano examines works of fiction that have been published over the past 100 years in a bid to discover the ways in which nonproductive labor plays an integral part of contemporary society and culture. The works of noted authors such as Oguri Fuyo, Kafu Nagai, Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, Ango Sakaguchi and Yukio Mishima are taken apart before Amano comes to the conclusion that idle labor was basically the same as living labor — individualistic freedom that effectively starts the cycle of decadence all over again.