Shiina Rinzo: imaging hope and despair in occupation
|MARK WILLIAMS a1|
a1 University of Leeds
With defeat in the Pacific War in 1945, the very notion of ‘community’ (as described by Benedict Anderson) in Japan was under threat, the future of the nation dependent, as never before, on the response of the international community. Viewed in a different light, however, the slate was clean—the possibilities, indeed the need, for revised terms of reference for this ‘imagined community’ now of paramount importance. The ensuing attempts to define the parameters of the emerging national identity were far-reaching and multi-faceted, seeking as they did to encompass the memories of loss and devastation through the realm of everyday culture as well as through political discourse. The focus of this paper will be on the contribution to this radical reassessment of the relationship between the nation and the individual made by the group of authors collectively known as the Sengoha (après guerre literary coterie). More specifically, I shall be examining the novellas, Shin'ya
shuen (The midnight banquet, 1947) and Eien
josho (The eternal preface, 1948), two early texts by the author, Shiina Rinzo, arguably the most representative Sengoha writer, for evidence of the extent to which this literature helped to shape and modify the ‘imagined community’ of Japan.
1 This paper is based on a presentation given at the second workshop of the ‘Narrating and
Imaging the Nation’ project, arranged by the AHRB Centre for Asian and African Literatures,
SOAS, University of London. A draft of this paper was presented at a symposium on Shiina Rinzo:
arranged by the Centre for Research on Christianity at Meiji Gakuin University, Tokyo and
subsequently distributed to members of the Centre. The author would like to thank both audiences for
some thought-provoking questions.