Sep 6, 2012

"I Don't Work, Because of the Relationship between Japan and the West"

I just finished reading V. S. Naipaul's novel "Half a Life."

The central character of this novel, Willie, was born in India and went to a missionary school to learn English, because his father wanted it. Ironically learning English language and culture made him feel uncomfortable with his family and their culture and society, so he left India to go to England. But he couldn't settle in England, he kept roaming around the world.

Ann, Willie's lover, who was born in a former Portuguese colony at the East cost of Africa, sent a letter about the novel that Willie wrote. She. In the letter she wrote as follows.

We read this book and that book and we tell ourselves we like it, but all the books they tell us to read are written for other people and really we are always in somebody else's house and we have to walk carefully and sometimes we have to stop our ears at things we hear people say. I feel I had to write to you because in your stories for the first time I find moments that are like moments in my own life, though the background and material are so different.

I'm not familiar with the background and materials in the novel "Half a Life", nevertheless I can also understand its story very well, because I've read the same theme in a lot of works of modern Japanese literature.

For example, Soseki Natsume, who was one of the greatest novelists in the modern Japanese literature in the late 19th century, wrote a following remark in his novel "Sorekara (それから)", which means "After that."

"I don't work, because of the relationship between Japan and the West"

This remark was spoken by the central character, Daisuke, who was a second son of an upstart in the Meiji Era, when Japan was modernizing rapidly. His elder brother was working at a family business with his father, but Daisuke did nothing.

His father gave Daisuke Western education, so he couldn't believe in old Japanese values, which his father had, but at the same time he couldn't get into western society.

Daisuke in the novel that was written in the late 19th century by Japanese author resembles Willie in the novel that written in the early 21st century by Indian author born in Trinidad and Tobago.

I, who was born and am living in the hinterland of the world dominated by the West, Japan, "find moments that are like moments in my own life, though the background and material are so different" in this novel. Similarly people, who were forced to modernize, in India or Guinea-Bissau might find something in common in the modern Japanese literature.

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