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So Lovely a Country Will Never Perish: Wartime Diaries of Japanese Writers

by Donald Keene Columbia University Press
Pub Date:
Hbk 192 pages
AU$59.99 NZ$61.73
Product Status: In Stock Now
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Japan's involvement in World War II and the Greater East Asia War provoked a range of reactions from its citizens. Pride, rage, sympathy, revengeā€”a single year of triumph and three of catastrophic loss forced the Japanese to question their country's presumption and its ability to shape history and the world. Falling to the will of the Allied powers further complicated Japan's postwar recovery, imprinting feelings of shame, resentment, doubt, and self-recrimination onto the national psyche.

No writers better captured these fluctuations than a group of well known authors who risked recording their thoughts amid the bombings and fear of invasion. Nagai Kafu, Takami Jun, Ito Sei, Hirabayashi Taiko, Yamada Futaro, and the scholar Watanabe Kazuo wrote absorbing narratives, passionate polemics, and crystalline poems. Donald Keene, a leading Japanese scholar, samples from their texts, some of which were written by individuals he knew well. His own relationship with this material adds a compelling layer to his work. The diary of Ito Sei, for example, with its fervent patriotism and racial claims, forms a stark contrast with the soft-spoken, kindly man Keene knew. Weaving archival materials together with personal reflections and the intimate accounts themselves, Keene produces an entirely original portrait of wartime attitudes and foreign domination in Japan. Whether detailed or fragmentary, these diary entries were written for future generations, making clear the danger of false victory and true defeat.

Introduction: Wartime Diaries
1. The Day the War Began
2. The Birth of "Greater East Asia"
3. False Victories and Real Defeats
4. A Dismal New Year
5. On the Eve
6. The Jade Voice
7. The Days After
8. The Revival of Literature
9. Rejection of the War
10. Under the Occupation

[A] superb little book.
Donald Keene is Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature and University Professor Emeritus at Columbia University. He is the author of more than thirty books, including Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan; Frog in the Well: Portraits of Japan by Watanabe Kazan, 1793-1841; and Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World; and a definitive multivolume history of Japanese literature.