A History of Modern Japanese Novels provides a general overview of the history of modern Japanese novels in a compact and easy-to-understand way. The content makes it a suitable handbook for high school and university students, general readers, and even international students. Novel-related portions have been excerpted from an Open University of Japan textbook that has been popular for many years, and re-published as a new book with substantial revisions and additions.
The book covers a period of approximately 120 years, from the 1860s to the 1980s. Many introductory books of this type tend to be dull or to merely enumerate names of authors and titles, but this book has been designed to be easy to read, with clearly specified points and issues for reading and understanding in each section, mainly focused on the spirit of the age in which they were written and unique modes of expression from that era. The book quotes renowned passages from famous works so the reader can encounter actual novels as much as possible. It also includes marginal notes, simple summaries, and information on the content of major novels, so the reader can utilize it as a sort of “guide to famous novels.” The various illustrations should also prove useful in helping the reader visualize the content under discussion.
There are numerous modern Japanese novels, and it is increasingly difficult to organize them in a compact and balanced way while paying heed to scholarly accuracy. Perhaps for this reason, the number of guidebooks of this sort being published has decreased markedly in recent years, and past guidebooks contain clearly outdated material and cover only limited eras. Considering this, one can say that A History of Modern Japanese Novels is the most accessible literary history reference book available at this point in time.
Many published reference books in the field of literary history are the joint effort of a number of specialists, but this book has been penned by a single author. It is distinctive because it is written according to the author’s consistent view of literary history with a keen regard for historical accuracy. Today, modern literary history lectures are rapidly disappearing from university courses, and there are fewer opportunities for young readers to gain a complete understanding of the history of modern Japanese literature. Accordingly, this book fulfills a vital role as a comprehensive account of literary history in the natural voice of a single individual.
Greater understanding may be facilitated by reading this book together with Creating the “I” - An Examination of Modern Japanese Novels by the same author.
(Written by ANDO Hiroshi, Professor, Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology / 2018)