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Disruptions of Daily LifeJapanese Literary Modernism in the World$
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Arthur M. Mitchell

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501752919

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501752919.001.0001

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Kawabata Yasunari’s The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa and the Narrative of the Present

Kawabata Yasunari’s The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa and the Narrative of the Present

(p.155) Chapter 3 Kawabata Yasunari’s The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa and the Narrative of the Present
Disruptions of Daily Life

Arthur M. Mitchell

Cornell University Press

This chapter investigates the engagement of Kawabata Yasunari's novel The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa with the language of earthquake reconstruction as it reached a climax in the late 1920s. In the latter half of the decade, the major Japanese newspapers sought to track the progress of post-earthquake reconstruction efforts through a language of science and objectivity. These reports collectively announced and anticipated the finalization of these efforts in the spring of 1930 when municipal and national government bureaus had planned an extravagant festival to celebrate the successful renovation of the “imperial city.” The serialization of Kawabata's novel spanned the time period both before and after this festival with a suggestive hiatus during the few months in which the festival actually took place. The novel assimilated the language of this mass media reportage, reproducing statistical analyses and even reprising some of the exact language being used to describe the new bridges and parks. But the story is rendered through a kaleidoscopic narrative that shuffles and reshuffles a bric-a-brac of details and events into momentary patterns of coherence. Ultimately, Kawabata's novel subverts national attempts to suppress the traumas of the recent past, insisting on an alternate way of narrating the psychology of the city.

Keywords:   Kawabata Yasunari, earthquake reconstruction, Japanese newspapers, imperial city

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