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June 01, 2010


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The passivity of Murakami's characters may come from the context-dependency described by Doi. I have no idea how prevalent that is in other contemporary Japanese literature, however. It's my udnerstanding, though, that the dynamic characters in Kurosawa films or Mishima are contrastive to the average man (average Japanese, average person.)

The two great Chinese novels of the first half of the 20th c. are about passive figures -- Ah Q and the protagonist of "Fortress Besieged". The latter gets married to the wrong woman because it seems to be the most convenient way out of a social embarrassment.

Hi John,

I always love hearing from you here and there! Yes, I would agree in part on the context dependency. However, what really got me is not that but that this is done in isolation... a post modern alienation? Did you know that Japan is counted as one of the world's big atheist nations? Like Sweden and Finland.

Fortress Besieged... Still want to read it:
"Marriage is like a fortress besieged: those who are outside want to get in, and those who are inside want to get out." Though actually what I *really* want to read is Soul Mountain. Have you read it yet?

No, I actually don't read much fiction. Non-fiction and lyric poetry mostly.

The author of Fortress besieged was a polymath scholar in about eight languages. His "Limited Views" is really great but extremely demanding. Even if you don't get it all, there are little nuggets that are worth it, like a very apt citation of Emily Dickinson to illustrate a Chinese critique of Taoist immortalism. In my experience Chinese and Japanese Occidentalists are much more likely than Western Orientalists to look for common points between cultures, rather than uniquenesses and differences, and this usually includes the belief that China and Japan can learn from the West.

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