Murder Most Modern: Detective Fiction and Japanese Culture by Sari Kawana

By Sari Kawana

The critical foreign style, detective fiction usually works less than the guise of well known leisure to show its broad readership to complicated ethical questions and well timed moral dilemmas. the 1st book-length research of interwar jap detective fiction, homicide most up-to-date considers the $64000 function of detective fiction in defining the country’s emergence as a contemporary nation-state.

Kawana explores the interactions among the preferred style and broader discourses of modernity, country, and ethics that circulated at this pivotal second in jap historical past. the writer contrasts eastern works through Edogawa Ranpo, Unno Juza, Oguri Mushitaro, and others with English-language works through Edgar Allan Poe, Dashiell Hammett, and Agatha Christie to teach how jap writers of detective fiction used the style to disseminate their rules on the most startling facets of contemporary existence: the expansion of urbanization, the safety and violation of privateness, the criminalization of irregular sexuality, the dehumanization of medical study, and the horrors of overall war.

Kawana’s comparative strategy finds how jap authors of the style emphasised the important social matters that captured the eye of thrill-seeking readers-while eluding the eyes of presidency censors.

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Extra resources for Murder Most Modern: Detective Fiction and Japanese Culture

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The first two incidents take place before the earthquake, and ironically the family in question has migrated to the area only because they were burned out of their old home. The police prove unable to pinpoint the common thread in all three cases and arrest Iwami, although they probably will not be able to convict him. The truth is revealed at the end of the story only when the real culprit, Matsumoto, decides to confide in the narrator that he, the young and able journalist, is in fact the robber who eluded the authorities in the case of the Oriental Jeweler & Co.

From the standpoint of social history, it can serve as another piece of evidence illustrating what critics Yoshimi Shun’ya and Harry D. 40 Another more formalist explanation would be that Hammett and Ranpo, both students of the formulas and techniques of detective fiction, arrived at the same conclusion via different paths. 41 In both cases, all parties were given credit for their achievements. Perhaps the case of Ranpo and Christie calls for a new way of looking at various formalist literatures and crosscultural literary inspiration and encourages the willingness to go beyond the existent hierarchy of influence and de-emphasize originality and priority.

Similarly, as Japanese texts were rarely, if ever, translated into Western languages, it is highly unlikely that Hammett emulated a fellow detective writer in the Far East. If Ranpo’s work had been written even a day after Hammett’s, the similarity between their works would have been explained away by the usual theory of cross-cultural influence, where Western writers invariably influence the Eastern or Japanese writers. However, as Injū predates The Maltese Falcon, it preempts this banal (and sometimes misleading) explanation.

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