Terrible Beauty: the Aesthetics of Death in Polish and Japanese War Literature


War narration is inseparably linked with the image of death, which is a very sensitive issue. This paper shows how in two different cultures the writers succeed in turning death into something good, heroic, and even beautiful. I am interested how the representation of death and dying can arouse aesthetic pleasure and fascination. As philosopher Edmund Burke suggests: "Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling" (1757:39).
In discussing the image of death in war literature, the article raises the long-standing question of aesthetic response to the traumatic experience of war in the twentieth century. The conflict between an aesthetic spectacle and the real horror behind war and death will be, thus, the main topic of this paper. To achieve this aim, I prefer a comparative analysis of both similarities and differences between Polish and Japanese portrayal of death in war literature. To illustrate themes, the subject of my analysis refers to the wide range of texts, principally but not exclusively to Stones for the Rampart, also translated as Stones on the Barricade by Aleksander Kamiński (1943) and Grave of the Fireflies by Akiyuki Nosaka (1967).

Author Information
Olga Bogdanska, University of Lodz, Poland

Paper Information
Conference: LibrAsia2014
Stream: Literature

This paper is part of the LibrAsia2014 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Bogdanska O. (2014) Terrible Beauty: the Aesthetics of Death in Polish and Japanese War Literature ISSN: 2186-2281 – The Asian Conference on Literature and Librarianship 2014 – Official Conference Proceedings https://doi.org/10.22492/2186-2281.20140277
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.22492/2186-2281.20140277

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon