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Zaberezhnaya O.A. Naoya Shiga and Saneatsu Mushanokoji Печать E-mail
31.03.2014 г.

Naoya Shiga and Saneatsu Mushanokoji. «Shirakaba-ha» literary society members' shared ideas

Zaberezhnaya O.A. (IAAS, MSU)

Novelists Naoya Shiga (1883-1971) and Saneatsu Mushanokoji (1885-1976) were the members of literary society «Shirakaba» («White Birch») one of the major ideological streams of the Taisho period (1912-1926).

During the period called «Taisho democracy» many new ideological trends appeared. Japanese version of naturalism was replaced by the ideas of liberty and humanism, the main supporters of which were the young members of Shirakaba society such as Shiga and Mushanokoji.

These two novelists seemingly have nothing in common. Style or form of their writings, or topics they bring up and critics' reviews were so unlike, that it makes it hard to believe that there could be close friendship between these two.

While Mushanokozi's writings were criticized for being too plain and ingenious, Shiga was announced a master of short story and a «divine novelist». Mushanokoji touched upon most wide range of problems from a man and his existence to social matters. Being a fierce opponent of war he created a utopian society model. Shiga on the contrary completely detached himself from social matters and created a subjective imaginative world of a single character - his own world as a general matter. His prose was laconic and precise, he tried to follow his own principal of «nonsentimental text with sentimental contents». Mushanokoji's texts contrariwise are full of emotional exclamations with no rhythmic pulsation and intensity of Shiga's texts researchers have been remarking repeatedly. Mushanokoji is an ideologist using his texts as means of transmission of his ideas while Shiga is a sensor type with literature as a field of expression of his own understanding of reality.

Nevertheless both novelists as members of Shirakaba society must have formally shared the philosophy declared by the group's leader Mushanokoji. Core principle of this ideology was thesis «jiko wo ikasu» (self fulfillment). Every group member however had his own understanding of this principle. For Mushanokoji's himself it meant primarily the free choice of creative career and possibility to follow own inspiration aiming to find a vocation. He is always concerned with the idea of his worldly mission accomplishment. For Shiga «jiko wo ikasu» turned into a so called egocentrism (jikochushinshugi), and multiple critics incriminate him this. For him «self fulfillment» means to be a mediator between the beauty of this world and readers. To complete this mission in the most accurate way a writer should fully concentrate on his own world. Even though these two novelists had their own understanding of «jiko wo ikasu» still a demand of freedom in realization of their ideas was common for both.

All members of Shirakaba group (excepting Takeo Arishima) shared the ideas of humanism and faith in humanity. These ideas go like a golden thread through texts of Mushanokoji and Shiga's prose and essays, moreover, it needed to be noticed that both writers show immense optimism against human and its future. Both authors draw a character with his feet on the ground showing no doubt about validity of his own existence. This stands in sharp contrast with a former ideology of naturalism and works of contemporary writers such as Dazai Osamu. Indicatively that Mushanokoji and Shiga lived a long live, and characters of their writings are never driven to deadly insanity or suicide. The characters demonstrate ideological integrity with no distraction of feelings and thoughts as their main feature.

Shiga and Mushanokoji see arts as force inspiring to a creative feat, as force giving spiritual impulse. This is how Shiga sees for example the prose of his favorite author Ihara Saikaku and Mushanokoji sees Tolstoy's writings. Yet completely different factors give them inspiration: Mushanokoji sympathizes with Tolstoy's Christian and pacifistic beliefs while Shiga is captured by the very text by Saikaku moderate, laconic, full of contents, in which Shiga feels «intense rhythm».

Both writers are in constant search for harmony and beauty, but their perceiving of these concepts is different. Mushanokoji believing in a «cosmic will» (shizen no ishi) that guided a man's fate supposed beauty to be the main goal of that will, but Shiga never linked beauty to any abstract supernatural powers. Among other member of the group the very idea of cosmic will least weakly expressed in Shiga' writings, if expressed at all. Mushanokoji believed that the world naturally tends to ideal beauty and as humanity evolve the spiritual part of human nature untiringly drive it to beauty, make human demand beauty and create the works of art. This demand is basic for the whole human existence and is set by universal powers of nature. On the other hand Shiga understood beauty as a part of his own subjective world and as a temporary feature of people and phenomena. According to Shiga only artworks were true beauty carriers while everything else is depends to a person's state.

Attitude to a woman is however common. A woman is always in a secondary position towards a man that can argue for example with Junichiro Tanizaki's works where a woman is put high on a pedestal. This position is quite common among Shirakaba's members and many other writers of the time. Nevertheless Mushanokoji often draws an image of clean and inaccessible dream-girl Shiga's woman image is more realistic and shown with all her demerits.

Thus, amid the apparent differences and even contradictions in the characters of Shiga and Musyanokodzi, their views have much in common, which laid the foundation for their joint activities within the same group. Comparative analysis of views of selected writers revealing similarities and differences is essential for true reference and understanding of Shirakaba ideological movement.


Russian texts

1. Girshman М.М. Rythms of fiction. Moscow 1982.

2. Keene, Donald. Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature in the Modern Era. Columbia University Press, 1998.

3. Mathy, Francis. Shiga Naoya. Twayne Publishers, 1974.

4. Starrs, Roy. An artless art : the Zen aesthetic of Shiga Naoya : a critical study with selected translations. Richmond Surrey, Japan Library, 1998.

 Japanese texts

5. Abe Gunji. Torusutoito Shirakaba-ha.( Tolstoy and "Shirakaba"), Tokyo, Sairyusha, 2008

6. Mushanokoji Saneatsu. Collected Works. Tokyo, Tiuma syobo, 1970

7.Nishigaki Tsutomu. Shirakaba-ha sakka-ron. (Shirakaba-group writers study), Tokyo,

 Yuseido, 1981

8. Ozaki Kazuo. Siga Naoya. Tokyo, Tikuma syoin, 1986

9. Shiga Naoya, Complete Works in 15 vol. Tokyo, Iwanami syoten, 1973-1984

10. Shiga Naoya. Collected Essays, Tokyo, Iwanami syoten, 1995

11.Shiga Naoya.Collected articles by Association of Japanese literature researchers and publishers , Tokyo, Yuseido, 1970-78

12. Shiga Naoya. Jiga no kiseki ('Trajectory of ego' ),Editor - Ikeuti Teruo. Tokyo, Yuseido, 1992

13. Shirakaba-ha no bungaku ( Literature of "Shirakaba") Tokyo, Yuseido, 1977

14. Syamoto Takeshi. Nihon syosetsu no bisiki. (Aesthetic consciousness of Japanese novel), Tokyo, Ofusya, 1980

15.Honda Syugo. Shirakabano sakka to sakuhin.( Writers and Works of Shirakaba), Tokyo,  Miraisya, 1968.

16. Shigetomo Ki. Shiga Naoya kenkyu. (Study of Shiga Naoya)/ Tokyo, Tikuma syoin, 1979

17. Yanagida Tomotsune. Shiga Naoya no sauhin. ( Works of Shiga Naoya), Tokyo,  Remonsha, 1982

For full text see: IOCS Works («Orientalia et Classica» Series) History and culture of traditional Japan. 7 / Ed. A.N.Mesheryakov, RSUH. Moscow, 2014.
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