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  • Travel in Rībi Hideo’s Novels or the Search for an Alternative Writing Style in Japanese

    Dan Fujiwara

    Chapter from the book: Jonsson, H et al. 2021. Narratives Crossing Borders: The Dynamics of Cultural Interaction.

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    Ever since the publication of Seijōki no kikoenai heya in 1987 (translated in English by Christophers D. Scott: A Room Where the Star-Spangled Banner Cannot Be Heard, 2011), Rībi Hideo, the Japanese pseudonym of Ian Hideo Levy (1950-), has been considered one of the most important “border-crossing writers” on the contemporary Japanese literary scene. And it should be noted that this rare American author writing in Japanese that isn’t his mother tongue, has been challenging so-called “monoethnic ideology” of Japanese literature, according to which Japanese literature should be written by Japanese authors, in the Japanese language, for Japanese readers. One of the fundamental characteristics of his novels, is that these are mainly set within travelling situations. Each novel features central characters with a similar profile to the author himself (an American translator or writer living in Japan) and who move from Japan to Taiwan, China, or the USA. However, the travels described in Rībi’s novels, which have been analysed largely through the prism of modern-day concepts such as mobility and globalization, do not seem to be so free flowing. Indeed, the protagonists’ emotional and psychological states are often affected and disturbed by a number of problems, particularly language. Rībi’s characters are obsessed with the languages people around them use and permanently feel uncomfortable despite their ability in these languages. Travelling is above all a linguistic experience in the sense that it provokes critical thinking about the potential and the limit of language, in other words its identity. This paper aims to analyse Rībi’s novels by focusing on how different travel situations relate to language problems. It will also argue that the themes explores by Rībi enable him to develop an original writing style in Japanese. Finally, it will seek to emphasise that this unusual author’s literary oeuvre offers us an alternative framework for reflecting on our so-called globalized world.

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    How to cite this chapter
    Fujiwara, D. 2021. Travel in Rībi Hideo’s Novels or the Search for an Alternative Writing Style in Japanese. In: Jonsson, H et al (eds.), Narratives Crossing Borders. Stockholm: Stockholm University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16993/bbj.r

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    Published on June 15, 2021


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