Episode 19: Japanese Magical Realism

 “Even though She Looks Old, She Is Young” by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Check out Episode 19 of the Read Literature podcast.

Magical realism is a literary genre famous for unexplained fantastical encounters that pop-up in the otherwise everyday world.

Today, we’re going to take a look at magical realism in Japanese fiction.

We’ll start with defining magical realism, including a look at why that term is difficult and why some people think of it as controversial.

Then we’ll turn to the history of magical realism in Japan and take a closer look at the work of Tomihiko Morimi, especially The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl.

(CW: brief mention of fictional suicide attempt)

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The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl by Tomihiko Morimi (translated by Emily Balistrieri)

More by Tomihiko Morimi:

This episode also mentions:

A Reading List of Japanese Magical Realism

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. Ozeki is a Japanese-American-Canadian, but her book is deeply influenced by Japanese literary history.

Find Out More

“I Am Not a Magic Realist” by Alberto Fuguet.

“The Future of Latin American Fiction” by Jorge Volpi.

“What We Talk about When We Talk about Magical Realism” by Fernando Sdrigotti.

“Saying Goodbye to Magic Realism” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.

“11 Questions You’re Too Embarrassed to Ask about Magical Realism” at Vox.com.

Yasunari Kawabata’s 1968 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, “Japan, the Beautiful, and Myself”.

More about Yukio Mushima’s Life for Sale from Read Japanese Literature.

“Metafiction” at the Oxford Research Encyclopedia Online.

“Conflict in Literature” at KnowYourMeme.com.

An interview with Tomihiko Morimi.

Translators Emily Balistrieri and Andrew Cunningham talk about Tomihiko Morimi.

Tengu via Tofugo.com.

Rihaku (Li Bai in Chinese) via the Poetry Foundation.

The Uncanny Japan Podcast on Daruma.

Information about Kyoto from the Japan National Tourism Organization.

RJL on The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl. This blog post includes a “glossary” of some of the features of Japanese culture that come up in the novel.

“Literature” at Japanese Wiki Corpus

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Japanese Literature at Goodreads

Other RJL Episodes of Interest:

Sources

Ashkenazi, Michael. “Tengu” in Handbook of Japanese Mythology. ABC Clio, 2003.

Chilton, Myles. “Realist Magic and the Invented Tokyos of Murakami Haruki and Yoshimoto Banana” in Journal of Narrative Theory, 2009.

Cunningham, Andrew and Emily Balistrieri. “Readers Don’t Need to Be Babied: A Conversation on Translating Japanese Literature” at TheMillons.com, 2019.

Dash, Michael J. “Marvellous Realism—The Way Out of Négritude” in Caribbean Studies, 1974.

de la Campa, Román. “Magical Realism and World Literature: A Genre for the Times?” in Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispánicos, 1999.

Faris, Wendy B. “The Question of Other: Cultural Critiques of Magical Realism” in Ordinary Enchantments: Magical Realism and the Remystification of Narrative. Vanderbilt UP, 2004.

–. “Scheherazade’s Children: Magical Realism and Postmodern Fiction” in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, Duke UP, 1995.

Fincher, Alison. “God’s Plot Conveniences: The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl” at Read Japanese Literature, 2020. (free)

–. “Killing Commendatore; or, What the Hell is a Double Metaphor” at Read Japanese Literature, 2020. (free)

–. “Magical Realism in Penguin Highway” at Read Japanese Literature, 2020. (free)

Fuguet, Alberto. “I Am Not a Magic Realist” in Salon, 1997. (free)

Gordon, Andrew. A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present, 4th ed. OUP, 2019.

Hussein, Sawsan Malla and Brahim Barhoun. “The State of the Debate on Magical Realism and Ben Okri” in Oyé: Journal of Language, Literature, and Popular Culture, 2020.

Kamerer, Tamara. “Fantastic Realities: Magical Realism in Contemporary Okinawan Fiction” in Vienna Journal of East Asian Studies, 2014.

Klinkowitz, Jerome. “Metafiction” in Oxford Research Ensearch Encyclopedia Online, 2017. (free)

Keene, Donald. “The I-Novel” in Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature of the Modern Era—Fiction, 4th ed. Columbia UP, 1999.

Li Bai. “The Solitude of Night.” Translated by Shigeyoshi Obata. PoetryFoundation.org.

Morena-Garcia, Silvia. “Saying Goodbye to Magic Realism” in NYTimes Online, 2022. (free)

Marcus, Marvin. Japanese Literature from Murasaki to Murakami. Association for Asian Studies, 2015.

Morimi Tomohiko. Interview with Kyoko Sugimoto. Translated by Emily Balistrieri. Anime News Network, 2020.

Napier, Susan J. “The Magic of Identity: Magic Realism in Modern Japanese Fiction” in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, Duke UP, 1995.

Roh, Franz. “Magic Realism: Post-Expressionism (1925)” in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, Duke UP, 1995.

Sdrigotti, Fernando. “What We Talk about When We Talk about Magical Realism” in LA Review of Books, 2020. (free)

Stretcher, Matthew C. “Beyond ‘Pure’ Literature: Mimesis, Formula, and the Postmodern in the Fiction of Murakami Haruki” in The Journal of Asian Studies, 1998.

Suter, Rebecca. “The Artist as a Medium and the Artwork as Metaphor in Murakami Haruki’s Fiction” in Japan Forum, 2020.

Volpi, Jorge. “The Future of Latin American Fiction” at Three Percent. (free)

Weinberger, Christopher. “Reflexive Realism and Kinetic Ethics: The Case of Murakami Haruki” in Representations, 2015.
Zamora, Lois Parkinson and Wendy B. Faris, eds. Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Duke UP, 1995.

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