Taiwan Lit

Essays

The Narratable Self: Taiwan Literature and Watakushi Novels

Taiwan Lit 1.2 (Fall 2020)

作者引言

被敘述的自我:台灣文學與「私小說」

語られた自己:台湾文学と「私小説」

The Narratable Self: Taiwan Literature and Watakushi Novels

這篇文章是應2018年京都大學主辦的Workshop而寫,開始嘗試以組織跨國學術社群來因應當代人文學危機的京都大學,從創校以來就以鎔鑄西方哲學與亞洲思想見稱,因此在這次探詢台灣大學文學院作為學術夥伴之可能性的活動中,主辦者設定了「Self」為主題,要求參加者分別從東方哲學、中國經典、語言學、近代文學等各自的專業出發,交集在「Self」這個概念上。

我接到這個主題時,立即的反應就是「私小說」。「私小說」公認為日本近代文學的代表,台灣當代作家亦有人仿效其方法,甚至標榜為個人風格。然而環繞著「私小說」而生的議論,更已形成一套論述,思想家、評論者、研究者、創作者從文本中衍伸出關於「私」與「小說」的種種想像與認知——現代文學的敘事倫理、社會中的私密性與公開性等議題,但終究趨向「自我」的本質性與建構而去。

「私小說」無疑是討論日本文學中「自我」的絕佳取徑,但台灣文學呢?藉由探討台灣文學中的「私」與「小說」的意義範圍,我認為應該可以在台灣文學史、比較文學等層次中,更看清楚台灣文學的特殊性——台灣文學表現出了怎樣的「自我」。

選擇這個題目,更與我近年關心在台灣之日本人社群的文化活動有密切相關。「內地人」在文藝政策、文學組織、文藝論述與創作層次,都在日治時期文壇扮演重要角色,但在現有的台灣文學史中卻沒有位置——就像台灣人的日語文學一樣尷尬。彷彿除了在內容上展現強烈的「愛台灣」之外,無法抵銷以殖民者語言書寫的原罪。

2018年台灣社會因為紀錄片「灣生回家」而捲起了「灣生」風潮——滿頭銀髮的日籍老人家娓娓訴說著台灣才是故鄉,增強了台灣人對於歷史與土地的自信;但接連而來的訪問造假事件,卻又暴露出當代台灣對於日治歷史文化的陌生,以及這種缺乏歷史支持的自信心的脆弱。於是我從先前以日人小說為對象,討論日本人社群中的個體如何競爭「愛台灣」,作為自我標示的一篇論文,衍伸出這篇以「Self」為主題,對比二篇牽涉到帝國邊緣位置的主體性建構問題的小說,希望勾勒出殖民地那無法擺脫全體主義的「自我」形象,其實映照出日本「私小說」作品與論述的問題。

I wrote this article for a workshop hosted by Kyoto University in 2018. Kyoto University has been renowned for integrating Western and Eastern thought since its founding. This workshop was part of Kyoto University’s effort to form a transnational academic community to respond to the contemporary humanities studies crisis. Partnering with the College of Liberal Arts at National Taiwan University, the organizer chose a theme of “self,” inviting participants to reflect on the concept, each from their disciplinary perspective, such as Eastern philosophy, Chinese classics, linguistics, and modern literature.

I immediately thought of the “I-novel” when I came across this topic. I-novels have been widely recognized as a representative form of modern Japanese literature; some contemporary Taiwanese writers also took to the technique and even celebrated it as their personal style. The discussions surrounding I-novels have formed a set of discourses. Thinkers, critics, researchers, and writers have derived various inspiration and knowledge from I-novels regarding the conceptions of “I” and “fiction”—including the narrative ethics of modern literature, privacy versus disclosure in society, etc.—which often entail discussions about the essence of “self” and the construct of it.

I-novels are undoubtedly a great way to discuss “self” in Japanese literature, but what about Taiwan literature? In delineating the conception of “I” and “fiction” in Taiwan literature, I think it helps to see in the context of Taiwan literary history or comparative literature the particularity of Taiwan literature—in other words, what kind of “self” Taiwan literature has presented.

The reason for choosing this topic is closely related to my recent interest in Taiwan’s Japanese community’s cultural activities. “Naichijin 内地人 (people of the home islands)” played an important part in colonial Taiwan’s cultural policies, literary organizations, literary discourse, and creative praxis. However, they have no place in current Taiwan literary history­—a reminder of the ambiguous status of the Japanese literature created by Taiwanese. It is as if it were a sin to write in the colonizer’s language, and only a presentation of strong affection toward Taiwan in the content can make amends for it.

In 2018, there was a stirring of interest in “wansheng 灣生 (wansei in Japanese, meaning Taiwan-born Japanese during the colonial period)” thanks to the documentary Wansei Back Home. It deepened the Taiwanese people’s sense of pride in their history and land, seeing the white-haired Japanese elders declaring Taiwan their home. However, following this enthusiasm, the fraudulent incidents linked to the associated book exposed contemporary Taiwan’s unfamiliarity with the Japanese colonial period’s history and culture. Lacking an understanding of this history, the sense of pride, as mentioned above, could be fragile. Therefore, I wrote this paper with a theme of “self.” It is an extension of one of my earlier works, in which I discussed the individuals in the Japanese community competing in their affection toward Taiwan as a means of identity expression. By contrasting the two works, both involving the marginalized of the empire and their construction of a subjectivity, I hope to have outlined the colony’s self-image, which could not be freed from the mainstream and reflected issues concerning the Japanese I-novel works and narratives.

Abstract

This paper examines the subject of self and its relationship to narrative identity in Taiwan literature through two fictional “watakushi novels” (I-novels). The self is a concept from Western philosophy, a perspective of thinking that was not common in traditional East Asia until the I-novels began exploring the Eastern self in literary narratives during the 1920s in Japan. A genre of literary modernity, the I-novel plays a significant role in extant cultural critiques. Contemporary thought regarded the expression of literary self as an endless effort to think about and question the ontological self in particular social conditions that dynamically determined the subject’s current status and past experiences. Focusing on Japanese-language novels in colonial Taiwan in the 1940s, this paper analyzes how colonial literature, using the colonizer’s mainstream discourse as its reference, explores the self in the social context of the colony. I will mainly discuss two fictional works: Ryu Eisou’s Madame Chou’s Caricature and Hamada Hayao’s Mr. Amai’s Watakushi Novels.

Madame Chou’s Caricature is a story concerning three readers’ uneasy thoughts about the novelist “Ryu Eisou.” All four readers, in the story, believe that Ryu Eisou the Novelist is borrowing from their life experiences to finish his work. Their “selves” are thus determined through the uneasy feelings concerning the writer. Mr. Amai’s Watakushi Novels depicts how Mr. Amai, a novelist who gets lost in literary criticism, determines his value and the meaning of his literary creations through the words of his family and friends. Both Mr. Amai’s Watakushi Novels and Madame Chou’s Caricature utilize the literary devices exemplified by watakushi novels. Moreover, the two novels also mock and deconstruct the fundamental elements seen in watakushi novels, such as relationships in literary circles, references to real people and events, and confessions. The writers seem to follow the literary rules of watakushi novels, yet, at the same time, fictionalize a self-referential reality and ultimately defend their writers’ position by referring to the unique colonial condition.

The “self” is in itself a Western philosophical concept and was therefore not a common line of thinking in traditional East Asia. This concept was introduced deliberately into Japan and China for the first time in the 19th century, when the two nation states were at a critical moment in their history and needed to transform themselves with Western academic knowledge and technology. It was with the introduction of such a concept that the idea of “who I am” gradually emerged, both on the level of physicality and spirituality, and became a motif in literature and the history of ideas.1王汎森認為,在中國新文化運動時期,中國「自我」觀念往往強調「自我完善」的面向,這與儒家思想中的「修身」有相近之處。後來「自我」更朝向不再受傳統理法道德約束的,更加開放的「向上主義」發展,然而仍與組織性、團體紀律為依歸。王汎森,〈從「新民」到「新人」——近代思想中的「自我」與「政治」〉,氏著《思想是生活的一種方式:中國近代思想史的再思考》,聯經,2017,p.54–90。 From what Karatani Koujin says about modern Japanese literature, namely that “The theme of exploration of modern self, however diverse its articulations, dominates discussions of modern Japanese literature,” we are able to affirm the relationship between literature and the concept of self. Moreover, we are able to ascertain the positive role modern Japanese literature plays in the discourse on subjectivity, as Koujin claimed that the “modern self” is not an essential being but an ever-changing phenomenon subject to the “systems,” and that it only comes into being through constant resistance or acceptance.1柄谷行人〈Ⅱ内面の発見〉,氏著《日本近代文学の起源》,講談社:2005,p.75-76。 Hence, the watakushi novels (I-novels), loaded heavily with modern issues of significance (such as confessions, cases of narrative ethics, and the blurring of lines between privacy and publicity) and regarded by Western scholars as an inherent part of the Japanese literary tradition,1鈴木登美〈序論 日本近代を語る私小説言説〉《語られた自己:日本近代の私小説言説》(大内和子、雲和子訳。岩波書店:2000年)。 are perfect for exploring how the concept of self is presented or re-created in literature.

This paper views watakushi novels as a literary technique that emerges when there is a shift in one’s subjectivity1安藤宏「每當描述者與被描述者之間的陷入閉鎖狀態之際,重回潛在於「我」內部的參差錯位,甚至藉由重新組合「觀看的方式」而開拓出嶄新的表現世界的歷史」(p.16)就是「私小說」論述興盛的時刻。 and a cultural discourse that explores the tension between modernity and tradition,1鈴木登美指出,「私小說」「是一項不具明確特定符指(<em>signifié</em>),卻有著強大力量的流動性(<em>signifiant</em>),以之為核心產生的一套論述。」在她命名為「私小說(後設)論述」的相關討論中,再三強調「私小說所引起的反應,比私小說本身更具有意義」。「私小說」在日本文化論述中之所以具有權威性,是與「小說」「自我」都從明治以來的現代化過程有關,也就是說,「小說」被賦予打造國家社會與文化的崇高價值,而與獨立、自立等基督新教價值觀緊密結合的「自我」,其文學表現更是質疑均值化國民性質的表現。 and, with these perceptions in mind, it seeks to discuss how the idea of self is presented in Japanese novels in colonial Taiwan in the 1940s. Beginning after the year 1895, as the island came under Japanese colonial rule, modern Taiwanese literature, on the one hand, sought to follow the trends of the May Fourth Movement in China, and, on the other, studied the popular genres in Japan for inspiration, making both Japanese and Chinese the means for expressing and actualizing itself. Nevertheless, this practice of self-narrating through multiple spoken and written languages came to an end in the mid-1930s, when Taiwanese writers were granted access to Japanese literary awards. Not only did the criteria of the Japanese literary community become the measure by which Taiwanese writers judged literary works, but Japanese also turned into the standard language in which the Taiwanese writers wrote. Such a trend was clearly against the idea of writing for novelty and likewise against the assertion of subjectivity. Contradictions and tension, as a result, were inevitable.1如徐瓊二在1940年的回顧文章指出台灣對於中央文壇的亦步亦趨,缺乏創造性,以及總是在「事後」才醒覺的惰性。「只要內地文壇流行生產文學、海洋文學、大陸文學、農民文學,現在提倡某種文學趨勢或文學運動,將來也會主張或提倡各種事物。大體上,台灣過去並沒有強大又能支配意識的文學趨勢或潮流(中略)一直到現在,台灣人都還是事後才透過報章雜誌、了解內地中央文壇的作品和文學動態。(中略)實施某種規則時,也是內地實施之後,台灣才跟著實施,創造性是文學非常重要的生命、可是連文學都走上和一般政治經濟相同的路線,真令人覺得遺憾之至」。徐瓊二〈邁向台灣文化之路——發展藝術的政治手腕〉《台灣藝術》1:2,1940/04/01。

It is worth noting that while genres such as political fiction, modernist literature, peasant novels, and proletarian literature were heavily emulated by Taiwanese writers early on, watakushi novels, though rather popular in Japan, hardly drew any attention in Taiwan. It was not that the Taiwanese literary community knew nothing about this genre, but that they tended to disapprove of it. A number of Japanese living in Taiwan, for example, criticized watakushi novels for being “unarguably senseless” and “worthless, too frivolous, and the reason why Japanese literature is coming to a dead end.” These remarks, though somewhat hysterical, still voiced a degree of concern for this particular genre. What Taiwanese writers advocated at the time, however, was proletarian literature that “paid attention to the lives of common folks.” The Taiwanese writer Gou Dakuryu’s The Red Carp in a Swamp, for instance, was the most acclaimed piece of work at the time, because it succeeded in “fully presenting the merits of the nativist literature.”1靜波〈感想〉《台灣新文學》1:6,1936/07/07。

The reason the Taiwanese literary community sought to establish “the kind of colonial literature that looks to resolve common folks’ problems,”1藤野雄士〈台灣文學界總檢討座談會〉,1936/12/6。 instead of opting for watakushi novels, where writers “truthfully and faithfully re-create the details of their private lives, thus making for a genre that is autobiographical in nature,”1鈴木登美〈序論 日本近代を語る私小説言説〉《語られた自己:日本近代の私小説言説》(大内和子、雲和子訳。岩波書店:2000年),p. 2。 lay in the community’s perception of what literature ought to achieve. It was a tug-of-war between whether literature should “solve problems” or “present the truth” and whether literature should “re-create details of one’s private life” or “speak for the colonial people.” Indeed, there were literary attempts made to offer a glimpse into the bigger picture through one single person’s story, but such a personal, individual-centric writing style still for the most part failed to fulfill the requirements of a Taiwanese literature in which the idea that literature should solve colonial problems prevailed.

It was not until the 1940s, when the war resulted in a shift in colonial policies in Taiwan,1Leo T.S. Ching. <em>Becoming “Japanese” Colonial Taiwan and the Politics of Identity Formation</em>. that watakushi novels began moving into the spotlight. As mentioned above, Taiwanese literature has always been the product of collective ideology, and with the homogenization of each individual under Japan’s total mobilization for warfare, it seemed quite impossible for watakushi novels, a genre that highlights individuality, to take root. However, it was exactly when such a homogenous definition was inflicted upon “writing” that the Taiwanese writers began musing over the relationship between literature and their “selves.” Bearing in mind what Karatani Koujin said about the coexisting relationship between one’s self and the systems under which one lives, it is obvious that the trend of deindividualization during the war served as a necessary foundation for the Taiwanese writers to start pondering how their “selves” could foster subjectivity amid the surrounding systems. Henceforth, this paper will talk about two watakushi novels—Ryu Eisou’s Madame Chou’s Caricature (1939) and Hamada Hayao’s Mr. Amai’s Watakushi Novels (1942). Madame Chou’s Caricature portrays three readers of the novel by Ryu Eisou the Novelist who believe that the novelist is stealing material from their life stories and using it as the backbone of his novel. Also, it talks about how the four characters, despite being quite unhappy about this matter, end up seeing who they really are through their interaction with literature. Mr. Amai’s Watakushi Novels, on the other hand, talks about how Mr. Amai, a writer getting lost in a sea of literary criticism, seeks to discover his self-worth and the significance of writing by interacting with his family and friends. Nevertheless, Mr. Amai ends up realizing that the motivation behind his practice of writing is simply that “he likes writing” and that he is of absolutely no use in the war mobilization system. In these two works, the basic principles of the watakushi novel, such as the entangling of relations among authors, fictional characters, critics, as well as readers, the different perceptions of self-image when one gazes versus is gazed at, and the existence of authenticity, all follow rather simple storylines and unfold as characters interact with one another. Such settings have turned these novels into fictional meta-texts that explore the idea of self and further point out the problems that can arise in reality when one is confused about his or her “self.”

Ryu Eisou, the author of Madame Chou’s Caricature, was the first writer in Taiwan to receive a literary award from Kaizo, a Japanese magazine, and was quite familiar with trends in the Japanese literary community. Before completing Madame Chou’s Caricature, he published most of his works in several Japanese newspapers, so this work can be deemed Eisou’s debut in the Taiwanese literary community, and a rather provocative one, too. There are four parts in Madame Chou’s Caricature: Mr. Chou’s Portrait, Madame Chou’s Portrait, Hou Akio’s Portrait, and Touran’s Portrait. The four of them are basically the protagonists in the novel, but in addition to them, there are also Mr. Chou’s drinking buddy, Inoshishi, and Ryu Eisou the Novelist.

Taking place in Taiwan’s countryside, this story mainly features the affairs of Mr. Chou and Madame Chou. Mr. Chou is a wealthy, attractive man who spends his time in drinking and sensual pleasure and who plans to have Touran, the housemaid, for himself. Madame Chou, on the other hand, is not happy with having to sit home alone and so decides to seduce Hou Akio, the house servant, to be her secret lover. However, the couple soon finds out that Hou Akio and Touran are secretly in love with each other. As a result, they sell Touran to a brothel somewhere in Southern Taiwan to be a prostitute. The story ends with Hou Akio boarding a southbound train with Touran, as they head out together for a future unknown. In fact, the storyline is rather clichéd, embracing quite unreservedly the dichotomy between good and evil, as in other popular literature. The story unfolds in a fashion reminiscent of the dichotomies between bread and love, reality and ideality, and bourgeoisie and proletariat, and later ends in a way similar to socialist literature, where the oppressed stand up to resist injustice and eventually liberate themselves. Interestingly though, the characters in this novel actually break the underlying settings of both popular and left-wing literature in every way. Moreover, the character named after the author himself, Ryu Eisou the Novelist, further breaks the fixed pattern of the aforementioned literatures, turning Madame Chou’s Caricature into a meta-text that observes the correspondences between literature and reality from the perspective of watakushi novels.

In the first scene in Madame Chou’s Caricature, Mr. Chou and Inoshishi drink, chat, and make fun of Ryu Eisou the Novelist. They describe the novelist as someone who is “sickly and always pretentiously carrying a book around” and is therefore unfit for this line of work as it will be too “absurd and laughable.” This perception of theirs not only reveals how low a socioeconomic status Ryu Eisou the Novelist has, but also suggests that the act of writing could be quite challenging in this particular time period, implying that it is not something a “sickly and pretentious” young adult can handle. Additionally, it is said that when Ryu Eisou the Novelist’s work, also titled Madame Chou’s Caricature, is read by Mr. Chou, Madame Chou, as well as Hou Akio, the three of them all seem to believe that the novelist is using them as the prototypes for his characters in the novel and complain that he has in some ways twisted their experiences and stigmatized them. The truth, however, is quite the opposite. Readers can easily tell from their emotional choice of words that none of the things in Ryu Eisou the Novelist’s work is made up or fictional.

There is no way for readers to know the exact content of this novel, and the focus of the novel is therefore the external image of each character and how each of them reacts upon knowing they are being “narrated” in some novel. The image of Madame Chou, for example, is primarily modelled on the popular literature of the Taishou Period (1912–1926). In the novel, Madame Chou believes that the purpose of reading literature is for people to purify their minds and sublimate themselves, and thus is looking for the ideal personalities she wishes to possess and the kind of love she believes to be perfect in works such as Akai Shiratori and Shinju Fujin. However, when Mr. Chou no longer frequents her bed, she quickly turns to seducing Hou Akio and conspiring against Touran, responding to her cruel reality in a way completely at odds with the female leading characters in the popular literature she reads. Given that this is apparently who Madame Chou really is, it can be said that the familial ethics and gender roles in popular literature serve as the framework that allows her inner self to surface. Hence, when Madame Chou flies into a rage upon reading Madame Chou’s Caricature and criticizes Ryu Eisou the Novelist for being “shameless, vulgar, low-class, and obscene,” she is in fact demonstrating the kind of shame one feels when one’s “self” is exposed, an effect that often comes with the literary techniques employed in watakushi novels.1被語彙化的「我」與閱讀著的「我」之間,有時存在著令人不安的錯位,也有著意會到正是如此啊、二者互相重合的剎那。當語彙成為鏡子的瞬間,原本堅信不疑的「我」開始動搖,開展出差異與重複的劇場⋯⋯。(中略)彼此相對反轉的過程中如果令人感到眩暈,那其中必定藏有祕密」。承續日本近代文學的研究傳統,將「私小說」視為現象的安藤宏以「眩暈」來描寫「被書寫的自我」所引起的感官震撼,並認為人為了維持日常秩序的穩定,必須在無意識中壓抑這份令人不安的眩暈。這段關於「自我」的暴露所引發的效應(第1章 自意識の昭和文学—「序」に代えて)p.11。

While we argue that Madame Chou’s self is most prominent when breaking the norms of leading female characters from popular literature, Mr. Chou, whom Madame Chou terms an “egoist,” displays his genuine self through a confession much like those delivered by heroes in Romantic literature, also reversing the general impression readers have of leading male characters in popular and colonial literature. The novel, though accentuating Mr. Chou’s frivolousness in the beginning through his conversation with Inoshishi, actually describes him as having “a straight nose and fair skin.” In the novel, he conforms to his parents’ expectations and goes to study abroad in Tokyo, thus ending his relationship with a prostitute. However, when he comes back home with a degree, there is, to his surprise, no suitable position for him to fully demonstrate his ability. Such disillusioned male characters are ubiquitous in the Taiwanese literature of the 1930s, and Mr. Chou is, of course, one of those. Yet, he does not degenerate into a depressed human being like many in the modernist literature do, nor does he turn into a fighter for social justice as in much of the left-wing literature. Mr. Chou is, from start to finish, an alcoholic who enjoys the company of women. None of the “colonial problems” that many Taiwanese writers wished to solve seems to trouble him in the novel. His existence is dedicated to telling one story and one story only: his fancy towards the prostitute “whom he cannot seem to forget in his lifetime.” At first, Mr. Chou depicts her as being very charming, but unfortunately, he “is not a writer and cannot fully describe her beauty in words.” Later, following the end of their relationship, he confesses that “he walks down the road alone on a bleak autumn day, feeling his passion burning intensely at one point, and freezing at another.” There was clearly no element of innovation in Ryu Eisou’s pursuit of the trend in the literary community in Japan, but he made great use of confession in watakushi novels to dissect some of the fixed patterns commonly seen in the Taiwanese literature of the 1930s, effectively throwing down a gauntlet to the local literary community.

Madame Chou’s Caricature also enables Ryu Eisou the Novelist, who is extremely mundane and unable to leave an impression on other characters, to remain a mysterious and authoritative figure, someone who is “able to write inconceivably good novels.” The author supplements with descriptions, such as, “In fact, Mr. Chou is not a vicious man,” when Madame Chou receives the cold shoulder from Mr. Chou, and additionally clarifies that Madame Chou’s motivation for seducing Hou Akio “is not derived from pure adoration of the opposite sex, but from dissatisfaction with Mr. Chou, which forced her into action.” It is the author who creates the images of the characters, explains their behavior and motivation, and furthermore endows them with meaning; it is the author who shapes the characters’ personalities in the process. This kind of creativity poses some kind of sense of threat to the readers, yet the critics’ and the readers’ interpretations also pose a challenge to the author’s intentions. The process of writing and interpreting generates the flow of the significance of the plot, and at the same time enriches the value of the literary text. The actions of Mr. Chou and Madame Chou breaking through the framework of symbols are precisely the resistance of the described subjects toward the narrator in order to maintain the stability of “self” in watakushi novels. In the novel, Inoshishi, who explains his relationship with Mr. Chou from “philosophical perspectives,” such as “laissez-faire,” “hedonism,” and “respect for individuality,” symbolizes the critics. He uses the language of intellectualism to decode the character's behavior models, thus creating positive significance for Mr. Chou’s and his own deficiencies and evil conduct.

More importantly, readers’ responses often do not match the writer’s expectations. Neither Hou Akio nor Touran, despite seeing themselves depicted in Madame Chou’s Caricature, responds intensely. Moreover, the misdeeds of the main characters, Mr. Chou and Madam Chou, do not even seem to pack any emotional punch for them. Hou Akio discovers that the indicative technique used by Ryu Eisou the Novelist is a strategy of watakushi novels—“pretending to be innocent under the guise of vulgarity but actually trying to change the status quo.” However, all these have nothing to do with Hou Akio’s life in reality. Just as Touran is not upset upon learning of her tragic fate, being sold to a brothel, the composed state of mind Hou Akio and Touran possess when facing such a turning point in life and their sudden decision to depart is certainly not within the author’s and the characters’ imagination.

With the tone of “caricature,” Madame Chou’s Caricature presents the complex relationship among characters, authors, readers, and critics in literary creations. What chains the relationship among the characters is the tension between the “self” and the “defined self,” and the fact that they disregard the definition inflicted upon them and go on to demonstrate the contingency of will.

Although there was not necessarily a continual discussion on the issue of the lack of space for “self” in Taiwanese literature, Ryu Eisou later made the following statement at a literary symposium: “The mainstream of Japanese literature, watakushi novels, do not exist in Taiwan. The writers in Taiwan search for themes outside of themselves. This is a unique feature of Taiwanese literature.” In this regard, Hamada Hayao, a Japanese writer in Taiwan, argued, “The so-called watakushi novels must be based on self-reflection and self-criticism, that is, self-awareness in a rigorous sense. Putting it this way, we can understand why Taiwan does not have watakushi novels.” He also humorously commented that, “A Japanese living in Taiwan who is unable to write watakushi novels is indeed a good theme for a novel.”1〈鼎談 濱田隼雄、龍瑛宗、西川滿〉,《文藝台灣》4-3,1942年6月。 It seems, therefore, that the problem of Taiwanese literature lacking the foundation for the birth of “self” can only be depicted in the tone of caricature. This dialogue later became a discourse and served as the beginning paragraph of Hamada Hayao’s Mr. Amai’s Watakushi Novels.

“The watakushi novel is not included in Taiwanese literature. This is because Taiwanese people engaged in literature do not have self-consciousness. They have no sense of self-reflection or self-denial, and they refuse the opportunity to better understand themselves. This is of course imaginable. They pamper themselves so much that they cannot bear to castigate themselves or to put themselves in a lower status. How could watakushi novel, the most authentic genre of Japanese literature, appear under this circumstance?”

Hamada Hayao and Ryu Eisou were the most significant writers in Taiwan in the 1940s. Hamada Hayao, who was a reporter in Tokyo, came to Taiwan on the eve of the Sino-Japanese War to become a Japanese teacher and began to write novels. After this novelist with a left-wing background established his status by writing fuzoku-novel-style short stories describing the daily lives of Japanese in Taiwan, he then moved on to write a long novel with a strong historical consciousness—An Immigration Village in Southland. Mr. Amai’s Watakushi Novels was written after the standalone version of An Immigration Village in Southland was published in Tokyo. Mr. Amai’s Watakushi Novels describes how the writer, “Mr. Amai,” who is deeply troubled by criticism, reacts after reading the words in the previous paragraph. He “instantly feels that those words are lashing out at him,” and thus immediately begins to contemplate the reason why there is a lack of “self-reflection” as well as “self-consciousness” within himself. He first stares at his reflection in the mirror, then he asks his wife to describe his appearance from her point of view, but he fails to receive a satisfactory answer as to how he looks. He also looks forward to receiving positive comments about himself from reporters Kujiki, Prof. Ureshiya, Prof. Karashino, and Prof. Kanda, in order to recover from the setback brought about by such negative comments as “Mr. Amai is a dilettante,” “Mr. Amai is a disappointment,” and “Mr. Amai is too aloof.” However, the words the reporters use, such as “sociality,” “spirituality,” “self-consciousness,” “writer’s point of view,” and “writer's trait,” only deepen his confusion. When his “self” as an author cannot be found in commentaries and reviews or interpersonal relationships, the night markets in Taiwan and his friend Mr. Douda’s residence, which is decorated with Taiwanese folkloric objects from his collection, provide Mr. Amai with refuge to rest and revel in peace. At the end of the novel, Mr. Amai receives an invitation to write for the Taiwan Engeki Kyoukai Association. Among the dozens of prohibitions listed by the association is “the writing of traditional folk customs of Taiwan will be considered against the Kouminka Movement.” This prohibition makes Mr. Amai realize that persistence in conforming to one’s “self” is a “disassociation from reality.” Consequently, he decides to write scripts and novels in accordance with the Kouminka Movement.

Mr. Amai is a good example of Hamada Hayao's figure from the symposium: “A Japanese living in Taiwan who is unable to write watakushi novels.” However, Hamada Hayao actually included a part of himself in the creation of this character. The comments which knock Mr. Amai sideways, including “Mr. Amai is a disappointment” and “Mr. Amai is too aloof,” are actually comments that Hamada Hayao himself had encountered in real life.1鹿子木龍(中山侑),〈見損なった濱田隼雄〉,《台灣公論》7-7,1941年7月。這篇文章指出本來在台灣連載的《南方移民村》因為決定了在東京出版,而突然中斷一事,加上《文藝台灣》的文學獎評審,必須仰賴矢野峰人、島田謹二帝大教授,竟不能只由實際擔任評審的濱田、龍瑛宗、西川滿三人直接掛名,這些都令人失望。另外,鹿子木龍(中山侑)在〈趣味雜誌「文藝台灣」〉中提及「濱田隼雄對於台灣的文學者的未來,常常發表意見,有些獨善其身的幼稚之嫌(独りよがりの甘さ)」。《台灣公論》7-4,1941年4月)。 On the other hand, “dilettante” is a criticism which was often applied to another important writer, Nishikawa Mitsuru. “Amai” is not a common surname; it is a homonym of the word for “ineffectual” in Japanese. In criticizing the fact that “Taiwanese works are still ineffectual (amai)," a commentary of the same period says, “The so-called writer's self-consciousness is not merely about adjusting the tie in the mirror or dusting off one’s shoulders.”1竹村猛〈文芸時評 作家と作品〉《台灣時報》273,1941年9月。 Searching for self-consciousness by looking at his obese body in the mirror is one of the comical acts of Mr. Amai. Mr. Amai’s Watakushi Novels is full of responses to contemporary literary criticism, as there were indeed real people with the uncommon surnames Ureshiya, Prof. Karashino, and Mr. Douda.

Those who are ridiculed in Mr. Amai’s Watakushi Novels as “lacking self-consciousness” are not single individuals but communities of Japanese in Taiwan which included Japanese writers and critics. In fact, through coming into contact with Taiwanese, Mr. Amai discovers, when facing different people, that he puts on a completely different and contradictory self. He then perceives that he must “observe the constantly changing ‘self’ among different interpersonal relationships.” It may take a long time, but there is “no other way but to give it a try.” However, this task of focusing on his self-contradiction is too difficult for Mr. Amai. Therefore, he can never seem to put it into practice, so he retreats back into his identity as a Japanese in Taiwan with a superior status under the colonial system, and he blames his inability to write on the fact that “he was a spoiled Wansei (the term for Japanese who were born in Taiwan during the colonial period).”

The “self” of Mr. Amai is built upon his identity as a Japanese, someone who is able to lead a stable life in Taiwan. However, his “writer’s self” perceives that there is no way for writers to produce works that are critical and reflective in such a colonial society. The Japanese professors in the novel are sure that the novel The Goose in a Swamp by fuzoku novelist Chin Kinsen is a piece of work that truly possesses “spirituality” and “the consciousness of one’s life.” The title The Goose in a Swamp is a parody of the previously mentioned Gou Dakuryu’s The Red Carp in a Swamp, which was regarded as a signal achievement of the Taiwanese literary community in the 1930s. The literary system during wartime, as symbolized by the “Taiwan Engeki Kyouka Association,” gives Mr. Amai an excuse to avoid looking directly at his “self” as an imperialist. Mr. Amai's Watakushi Novels also resembles a “caricature” which sharply satirizes the fact that the lack of “self-consciousness” was a result of one’s own choices.

In this paper, we touched on the idea that the concept of “self” in Taiwanese literature, despite being subject to the “systems” of colonial cultural ideology and war ideology, in which collectivism prevailed, could still emerge gradually through the antiphrasis and mocking of the literary techniques of watakushi novels. Just as “self” is dynamic in nature and must be shaped through constant discussion and negotiation, this study, too, is still in progress and is offered with the hope that it can arouse feedback from each and every one of you.

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Footnotes