Japan, the Global Novel and the Question of Responsibility


Recent years have seen the arrival of a number of novels, which, while they thematically touch on Japan to some degree, are best situated in a global rather than a national framework. This paper takes four of these novels—Kazuo Ishiguro’s An Artist of the Floating World (1986), David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten (1999), Murakami Haruki’s Umibe no Kafuka (Kafka on the Shore, 2002), and Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being (2013)—and looks at the way they deal with the question of responsibility. Naturally, the Pacific War provides an important backdrop to the examination of this question, most overtly in Ishiguro’s novel, but also less directly in the novels of Murakami and Ozeki. Mitchell’s novel, while orientated more to the present than the past, deals with related themes, trying to imagine in literary form a world of unintended global cause and effect. The notion of the global novel is highly contested and all four novelists dealt with in this paper have been implicated in these debates. While this paper’s primary focus is the thematic links between the four novels, it will also engage with the question of how these works both support and contest proposed definitions of the global novel.

Author Information
Jonathan Dil, Keio University, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: ACAS2015
Stream: Japanese Studies

This paper is part of the ACAS2015 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon