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Beyond “Pure” Literature: Mimesis, Formula, and the Postmodern in the Fiction of Murakami Haruki

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 March 2010

Extract

With the publication of Kaze no Uta o Kike (Hear the Wind Sing; 1979), Murakami Haruki (b. 1949) found himself more or less at odds with well-known members of the Japanese literary establishment. If one takes Murakami at his word, this was not the result of conscious effort on his part, but rather a matter of his own individualism, a certain indifference (feigned or not) toward the conventions and opinions of professional critics in Japan's literary community. He commented to journalist Kawamoto Saburō in a 1985 interview that “[i]t never occurred to me to resist the paradigms of existing ‘pure’ literature, or to offer some kind of antithesis to it…. I don't think I worried about whether existing types of works would go on existing, so long as I could write what I wanted, how I wanted” (Kawamoto 1985, 39–40). Such a statement might be taken as a reflection of the author's anxiety not to be labeled “anti-bundan“or otherwise standing against the proliferation of so called “pure“literature, or junbungaku. And yet, given the general trend of Japanese literature from 1980 onward, beginning perhaps with Tanaka Yasuo's plotless novel Nantonaku, Kurisutaru (Somehow, Crystal; 1980), Murakami appears to belong to a growing new set of contemporary authors who do precisely that: resist the concepts and definitions of “pure“literature, redefining the term to suit their own needs.

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Copyright © The Association for Asian Studies, Inc. 1998

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