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Jane Austen and Kanai Mieko: comic sisterhood.

A number of modern Japanese writers--both men and women--have expressed their strong respect and admiration for Jane Austen's literature. Kanai Mieko (b.1947), (1) in particular, has not only written some insightful comments about the works of the English novelist, but also novels and short stories that can be regarded as tributes to or parodies of Austen. This paper examines some of these works with a special focus on the comic elements that are developed and shared by sisters or women within and beyond the text. I will analyse how Kanai weaves stories of comic sisterhood that demonstrate overt or subtle affiliation with Austen. The term 'sisterhood' is used here in the broadest sense not only for biological sisters but also for women's real and imagined community and solidarity. The following discussion will show the ways in which Kanai skillfully subverts the patriarchal canonisation of Austen and other texts, and creates laughter that empowers women.

The Japanese Reception of Austen--as the 'Authority of Realism'

In order to understand the uniqueness of Kanai's stance towards Austen, a brief overview of the reception of Austen in Japan, especially among elite literati, is useful. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, but in another sense unsurprisingly, Austen translations and Austen studies in Japan have been dominated by male scholars, writers and critics. The most prominent and recurring figure is the celebrated novelist Natsume Soseki (1867-1916), whose earlier career was as a Professor of English at the Tokyo Imperial University. In his 1907 book on literary theory he commented that Austen should 'reign for centuries as the authority of realism'. (2) The term Soseki used for 'authority' is the Sino-Japanese word taito, which is coined by combining the first part of Taizan (Tai Shan, the iconic mountain in Shantung Province) and the last part of Hokuto (the constellation known as the Plough, or the Big Dipper). Sino-Japanese words are generally regarded as sounding more masculine, formal, and authoritative than native Japanese words and hence as essential in traditional men's literature and official documents. Soseki's choice of words to describe Austen literature certainly enhances these masculine characteristics and, given that this is part of his Theory of Literature, based on his lectures at the (male-only) Imperial University, the masculine diction is not at all inappropriate. This highest praise given to Austen's 'realism', or shajitsu (literally, copying the real), is contrasted with romanticism:
   Old men cannot bear fictive stimuli, while young men wail,
   brandishing their swords, and drinking heavily, they recite
   poetry. One cannot but praise their bravery and yet at the same
   time pity their immaturity. Women like superlatives; even
   mothers of a few children still unashamedly love slipshod
   fantasy. Austen was merely a little over twenty when she wrote
   Pride and Prejudice, and yet she deserves to reign for centuries
   as the authority of realism. (3)

The tropes of sword, drink and poetry, accord with the East Asian masculine tradition. (4) Frequent use of distich (old/young; sword/poetry) and hyperbole (hyakudai, literally, a hundred generations, for centuries, eternity) is also standard Sino-Japanese rhetoric although, ironically, superlatives are regarded here as women's predilection. Soseki by no means placed realism above romanticism, aestheticism and symbolism. Neither was he a humourless authoritarian. In fact, his early works such as Wagahai wa neko de aru (I Am a Cat, 1905-06) and Kusamakura (translated as The Three-Cornered World, 1906) are full of humour, satire, and philosophical and aesthetic discussions.

The first example Soseki cites in his lecture/essay on Austen's realism is the entire first chapter of Pride and Prejudice apart from the first two paragraphs and the last paragraph. Although Soseki writes in Japanese, the lengthy quotations are given in English without any translation or annotation, indicating the literacy and proficiency level of his expected audience. The famous dialogue between Mr and Mrs Bennet certainly contains comic elements. Indeed, modern readers may find it a little strange that this is given as an example of realism rather than humour or irony. However, when referring to the comic element in the writing of the 'authority of realism', Soseki emphasises that common subject matter and descriptions of ordinary people and events may convey something profound:
   Simple laughter may store profuse tears. Those who recognise
   nothing but actual weeping as weeping will probably find this
   laughter meaningless. However, I find it deeply moving. Those
   who understand this kind of subtlety will understand the
   profundity of Austen, that is, the profundity lurking in plain and
   simple realistic depiction. (5)

While the above assessment of the profundity of Austen's 'realism' sounds reasonable, it implies a preference for seriousness and tears over laughter. Given the historical and generic background, that is, a serious literary studies monograph written by a leading scholar for an elite audience, the defensive mode regarding laughter may be understandable. It is important to note, however, that an emphasis on the serious and realistic was to dominate mainstream modern Japanese literature for most of the twentieth century. This has certainly limited the reception of Austen as well as that of Soseki and other writers. (6) Furthermore, as already evident in the above quoted passages, while 'superlatives' and 'slipshod fantasy' are regarded as women's specialties, Austen's 'profound' laughter is regarded as exceptional. This also reminds us of yet another unfounded yet persistent myth that women lack a sense of humour. Studies of comedy and humour in literature usually cite only male writers' works. (7)

Erasure of the 'Comic' and 'Sisterhood'

Soseki's phrase the 'authority of realism' was to be quoted again and again; for instance, by his disciple and the first translator of Pride and Prejudice, Nogami Toyoichiro (1883-1950), (8) and by just about everyone who writes about Austen in Japan. (9) Here we have the prototype of the conventional reception of Jane Austen in Japan--the emphasis on canonicity, authenticity, and realism, sanctioned by the canonical writer and authority on English literature, Soseki, and maintained and propagated by his readers and disciples and their students, resulting in a preponderance of male translators, (10) scholars, teachers, and commentators on Austen literature. Notably, Soseki's lengthy quotations from Austen's original English text are usually removed in these secondary sources and, hence, the comic element evident in the Bennets' dialogue disappears, leaving only the 'realism' and 'authority'. Besides Soseki's comments, those of other male authorities, including Walter Scott, (11) Somerset Maugham (12) and Vladimir Nabokov, (13) have been introduced (and translated by male translators) to strengthen this construct.

When contemporary writers such as Maruya Saiichi (b. 1925) (14) and Kurahashi Yumiko (1935-2005) express their admiration for Austen's superb novelistic skills, they tend to sound conservative, and even authoritarian. The fact that Kurahashi Yumiko is a woman does not reduce the strong patriarchal tone of her novels or her essays. It is particularly interesting to contrast Kurahashi with Kanai, who, in the early days of her writing career in the late 1960s, was often compared to the authors of experimental metafiction and anti-roman, including Kurahashi.

Kurahashi's 1971 novel entitled Yume no ukihashi (The Bridge of Dreams) (15) does refer to both sisterhood and the comic in Austen, although merely to mutilate them. The primary narrative begins in early March and ends in mid-March two years later but the greater part of the novel is set in the first year which almost coincides with the protagonist Keiko's final 'thesis' year at the university. (16) In early April, Keiko has decided to write her graduation thesis on Jane Austen. At first she considered Evelyn Waugh, but felt that her English proficiency was not high enough to understand his fiction. In her first meeting with Associate Professor Yamada, who is going to supervise her, she explains that she plans to read all Austen's works chronologically from the Juvenalia and that she has already read Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey. Impressed by this, Yamada asks this bright student which aspects of Austen interest her. She replies:

'I find it really interesting that she observed people so well, and secretly kept on writing in small pieces of paper in the vicarage. I like her because she wasn't an art-for-art's-sake writer. And this is trivial but I'm also interested in the fact that she was never married in her life.'

'I hope you're not an advocate of remaining single yourself.'

'I don't know about that,' Keiko blushed while smiling. (17) In July, halfway through the novel, Keiko is going to see Yamada, with her newly-acquired copy of Jane Austen's Letters to Her Sister Cassandra and Others in her hand. That she reads all these primary and secondary texts in English indicates several things: her advanced proficiency, her academic diligence, her insistence on authenticity, and her privileged financial situation. (18) Before the meeting she is confronted by another student, Makiko, a much less privileged young woman, who has chosen Updike for her thesis but has recently been preoccupied with the radical Zenkyoto student activities rather than with her study. There is no hint of humour in the description of the differences between these two young women. Keiko, who has beauty, intelligence, wealth, class, and high moral and aesthetic standards, has nothing to share with Makiko. Instead her relationship with her supervisor develops. During their meeting the question of marriage comes up again, first as to why Austen did not marry and then why Yamada himself is still single; to this latter question he answers: 'When I find the right person, I will get married. I may propose to you some time.' (19) This student-teacher couple are presented without any ironic or humorous stance--and they do get married later in the novel.

In early October Keiko finds it difficult to pursue her initial plans to focus on Austen's humour. Yamada's supervisory advice is that the humour must be based on a healthy balance of 'blood, phlegm, choler, and melancholy', and an absence of egotistic obsession. (20) He also remarks later that Austen's fiction is 'undoubtedly women's fiction' and compares it to handmade lace tablecloth or embroidery. (21) This reminds us of Nabokov's comments on Austen:
   Miss Austen's is not a violently vivid masterpiece as some other
   novels in this series are. Novels like Madame Bovary or Anna
   Karenin are delightful explosions admirably controlled. Mansfield
   Park, on the other hand, is the work of a lady and the game of a
   child. But from that workbasket comes exquisite needlework art, and
   there is a streak of marvelous genius in that child. (22)

Kurahashi's Associate Professor Yamada, however, has another agenda: he adds that 'women who despise cooking, sewing, knitting, flower arrangement and other handiwork ... are failures as women and they tend to be stupid'. (23) Keiko has no objection; she feels as if she were 'a boat moored to a haven' that is Yamada. (24) The extremely conservative protagonists in this 1971 novel should be understood as a reaction against the radical student movement of the late 1960s and other socio-cultural changes. It must also be pointed out that Keiko is by no means a stereotypical submissive woman. She marries Yamada for the purpose of swapping sexual partners with her real lover (and half brother) and his wife, who is as bright, pretty, elegant, and as good-natured as Keiko is. (25) Swapping, or the exchangeability of partners, is indeed the main theme of this novel. So, despite its ultraconservative surface, the novel is highly subversive. Yet the subversion is based on class and gender discriminations rather than on humour and sisterhood.

Kurahashi uses the handicraft metaphor repeatedly in her essays not only when she refers to Austen's writing but also to women's writing--the latter described as 'uninteresting', in an essay originally published in 1966. (26) In another essay written a few decades later, Kurahashi compares Austen's fiction, in this case Pride and Prejudice, to 'high quality English tea' and again 'elaborate knitting or embroidery'. (27) While these rather trite accolades would hardly cause any dispute, her view that Pride and Prejudice is a story about how the 'wisest and superior man and woman find in each other the most suitable partner, while stupid and inferior women choose matching men and degenerate into unhappy life' (28) must have raised a few eyebrows. (29) Similarly, while no one would object to Kurahashi's admiration for Austen's acute observation at so young an age, many would oppose her ensuing remark that 'today's women would probably never be capable of such sharp and ironical observation, even at forty'. (30)

'Comic Sisterhood' Revived: Kanai Mieko's Fiction

Kanai Mieko and her protagonists provide excellent examples that today's women, regardless of their age, class, and milieu, can and do make observations as sharp as those of Austen and her protagonists. To describe Kanai's affinity with Austen, no other term is more apt than 'comic sisterhood'. First, both Austen and Kanai have sisters as their protagonists who cause, create, and share comic moments within the novel. They are at the centre of humour, satire, and irony. 'Sisterly' descriptions of food, fashion, and other domestic detail (sisterly realism) permeate the text. Kanai's intertextuality and metafictionality can also be regarded as 'sisterly' in the sense that they oppose paternalistic, Eurocentric, hierarchical and authoritarian notions of influence and reception. Both Austen and Kanai effectively use 'sisterly' confidence (dialogue) and correspondence (epistolary form) in their novels. The sisters in their novels share many practical concerns: for example, financial (in)dependence, and caring for the aged and/or invalid. Finally, both writers have enjoyed the moral support and artistic collaboration of their biological sisters. (31)

Like Austen's novels, Kanai's, especially those written in the last twenty years or so, are filled with sisters--both biological sisters and sisters-in-law. These include not only the central figures but their other sisters, the sisters of their parents, neighbours, relatives, friends, lovers, and so on. The most obvious example of sisters' stories among Kanai's works is Ren'ai taiheiki (The Chronicle of Love, 1995) (32) whose protagonists are four sisters. As the title suggests, the novel deals with the love affairs, marriages, separations, and divorces of these women. One notable difference between Kanai and Austen is that, while the sisters' romance occupies the core of Austen's fiction, in Kanai it tends to be associated with delusions about heterosexual romance (and reassurance of sisterly bonding). In The Chronicle of Love, marriage is neither an end in itself nor the ending of the novel; on the contrary, the novel literally begins with this line: 'Nonomiya Teiichiro and Takahashi Miyuki wedded on the eighth of April, 1990.' (33) It is not just the wedding which comes first rather than last; this is the wedding of the youngest of the four sisters. Furthermore, the couple has been living together for about a year before formalising their union. Unlike Elizabeth's youngest sister Lydia and Wickham in Pride and Prejudice, there is no elopement or any other dramatic event or issue. In other words, this is a generic parody of romance, as well as, more specifically, a parody of Tanizaki Jun'ichiro's Sasameyuki (1948, trans. The Makioka Sisters), which itself has often been compared to Austen's works. (34)

Another clear difference between Austen and Kanai is that the latter frequently emphasises corporeality and refers to sexual intercourse, diarrhoea, menstruation and menopause, quite bluntly, and often comically. Of course in Austen's time it would have been unthinkable for 'a Lady' to mention such things. And yet physicality is by no means absent from Austen's writing: illnesses, injuries, aging and minor ailments are in every volume. In Tanizaki's The Makioka Sisters, corporeality is emphatically introduced--ranging from miscarriages and serious illnesses to vitamin B deficiency. Its famous final lines read:
   The wedding kimonos arrived the same day. Yukiko [the third
   sister, who is finally getting married] looked at them and sighed
   --if only they were not for her wedding. Sachiko [the second
   sister] remembered how glum she had been when she was
   married herself. Her sisters had asked for an explanation, and
   she had retorted with a verse:

   'On clothes I've wasted
   Another good day.

   Weddings, I find,
   Are not always gay.'

   Yukiko's diarrhoea persisted through the twenty-sixth, and was a
   problem on the train to Tokyo. (35)

Critics have interpreted this final line as a premonition of the dark fate awaiting the heroine's marriage as well as the demise and destruction of the pre-war Japanese bourgeoisie and their culture. (36) Furthermore, as the critic Noguchi points out, 'the women's world depicted in Sasameyuki is essentially the world of women as viewed from a male viewpoint'. (37) The contrast with the final lines in Austen's sisters' stories is clear:
   Between Barton and Delaford, there was that constant
   communication which strong family affection would naturally
   dictate--and among the merits and the happiness of Elinor and
   Marianne, let it not be ranked as the least considerable, that
   though sisters, and living almost within sight of each other, they
   could live without disagreement between themselves, or
   producing coolness between their husbands. (38)

   With the Gardiners, they were always on the most intimate
   terms. Darcy, as well as Elizabeth, really loved them; and they
   were both ever sensible of the warmest gratitude towards the
   persons who, by bringing her into Derbyshire, had been the
   means of uniting them. (39)

The ending of The Chronicle of Love is neither particularly happy nor particularly gloomy. The two elder sisters, both of whom experienced divorce earlier, have just ended their more recent yet long-term relationships. The two younger sisters continue their married lives with children. Towards the end of the novel the eldest sister reads Chekhov's Three Sisters with an empathetic sigh; but there is no depressing or oppressive atmosphere or traumatic experience in this novel. Life goes on for each sister--with no jubilation but certainly with sisterly communication. Their love is neither dramatic nor passionate but ordinary and believable. There is no overtly paternalistic figure; the sisters' father dies halfway through the novel and, even while still alive, he never plays a leading part. Men are given comic and supporting roles in the novel. For example, when the third sister's husband is promoted at work, the elder sisters politely congratulate the couple, but they find their brother-in-law's naive pride rather comic. The third sister, too, is embarrassed and even annoyed by her husband's rejoicing. Each individual sister has her day-to-day life and her inner life, but they are 'always on the most intimate terms'. There certainly is 'that constant communication which strong family affection would naturally dictate' and this is superbly depicted in meticulous yet delightful detail--of the food, drinks, clothes, books, films, work, finance, school, health, housing, and all sorts of everyday objects and situations. Dialogue and conversations are as ironic and entertaining as those found in Austen novels, vividly revealing each speaker's personality and individuality. We are indeed reminded of Soseki's accolade for Austen, as the 'authority of realism'.

In Austen's novels, illnesses and injuries are often directly related to the romantic plot--either as an obstacle or an aid, or as one in the guise of the other. They are also strongly associated with sisterly bonding and caring for each other (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion). In Kanai's texts, sisterly caring is just as prominent as it is in Austen, but romance tends to be replaced by comedy, parody, and satire. In The Chronicle of Love it is the husband of the youngest sister who has diarrhoea on the evening after their wedding and stays in bed for three days. (40) The bride's reaction is: 'Does this mean you are worried about getting married? Is that why you have diarrhoea?' The bridegroom, in pain, replies that it is probably the mackerel he had the previous night, to which she simply replies: 'It's your fault for eating such fish'. (41)

In Kanai's novels even when the heroine has no sister, it is not at all difficult to find sisterly relationships that play important roles. In Uwasa no musume (The Girls They Talk About, 2002), for example, the narrator-protagonist has only one sibling, a younger brother; but her mother has a sister, and so do her mother's friends and their daughters, their neighbours and friends. Unlike the elite protagonists of Kurahashi's novel, these are ordinary people. Their gossiping and conversations are filled, and juxtaposed with vivid descriptions of 1950s fashion, films, magazines, popular music, and many other details of the time. There are elaborate, almost obsessive details of embroidery, weaving, knitting, sewing, and doll making. (42) The sisters and their extended sisterly relatives and friends exchange information and help one another. There is also a hilarious example of transgender sisterhood in another earlier novel, Indian Summer (1988). (43) In other words, even men can join in sisterly solidarity if they wish.

This extended and egalitarian sisterhood is prominent in Kanai's more recent work Kaiteki seikatsu kenkyu (A Study of Comfortable Life, 2006), which presents more exaggerated and yet quite Austen-like domestic and social comic situations. It is rich in irony that is enhanced both by the extensive use of the epistolary form and by conversation. The brilliantly comic use of letters written by an eccentric and egotistic woman, as well as the trendy printed newsletters of an equally egotistic architect, remind us of Austen's early work Lesley Castle. Kanai has commented on the passion and the obsession with cooking in one of its characters, Miss Lutterell, and draws an analogy between food and fiction, cooking and writing. (44) Some of the characters in this 2006 novel are as memorable as Mr Collins and Miss Bates, some as egocentric as Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Mrs Elton. Only, there is no Darcy or Knightley. Despite its caustic critique of the post-modern bourgeoisie and intellectuals, and despite its frequent references to illnesses associated with ageing, it is a cheerful work.

Besides sisters and sisterly relationships within stories, there is intertextual sisterhood--I have already mentioned a few examples. The protagonist of Bunsho kyoshitsu (Creative Writing Class, 1985) is a middle-class, middle-aged housewife called Ema. She is an intertextual (and intercultural) sister of both Austen's women and Flaubert's Emma--closer to Madame Bovary in her longing for romantic love (and actual involvement in an extra-marital affair), and yet she shares with Emma Woodhouse a comic naivety that may be irritating but loveable. Towards the end of the novel Kanai's Ema suffers from colds, upset stomach, and diarrhoea as well as emotional turmoil accompanying the end of her love affair. Unlike Madame Bovary, this Ema never contemplates suicide; when she recovers, she goes out with her old girlfriend, and they chat just as they used to in their schooldays, although the topic of their conversation is somewhat different. Reminding her friend that she once likened giving birth to a child to 'being cured of really bad constipation', Ema says:

'Well, I think a housewife's affair or romance is just like diarrhoea caused by autointoxication.'

'Not a pretty story... '

'That's right. There's nothing romantic about it. It's actually unhygienic.'

'How very shocking! The old Romantic Ema talks like a nihilist!'

'You know, it's quite unbelievable - how it cures everything. If you stay in bed without any food for an entire day, you can get rid of everything out of your system--all sorts of trouble, emotion ...'

'You are lucky. You always are so simple and full of buoyancy.' (45)

I may have chosen too many instances of diarrhoea for one paper. Needless to say, this Ema has many other stories to offer--even if her 'creative writing' embedded in the novel may be full of platitudes and naive narcissism. In a sense, Kanai's Ema is a literary sister of the heroines of Austen and Flaubert who themselves question, defamiliarise or parody romance heroines.

Kanai is certainly fond of Austen. Referring, like many other commentators, to the comments of Nabokov and Maugham, she explains the pleasure of reading Austen with a paradoxical term: the 'tedium of reading fiction'. (46) It is the kind of pleasure that cannot be replaced by film, art, or any form or genre other than a novel that urges the reader to keep turning the page. Kanai says this not as a Professor of English or World Literature but as a woman reader/writer with as much confidence in reading and writing as her literary sisters. Genette's notion of parody being the daughter of rhapsody and vice versa (47) is an interesting one. In considering the relationship between Kanai and Austen, however, sisterhood seems to be much more appropriate than a mother/daughter relation. And there is no cultural or historical hierarchy. Each sister has her own way of writing and of making people laugh. The laughter may contain something profound and moving as Soseki suggested; or it may be more wicked, caustic, and cutting. Despite their individuality, they still share many things. If Austen could read Kanai, I am sure she would smile, chuckle and, occasionally, roar, even as 'a Lady.'


An earlier version of this paper was presented at the International Jane Austen and VCE Conference entitled 'I Dearly Love a Laugh: Jane Austen and Comedy', held at La Trobe University, Melbourne, 29-30 November 2007.


(1) Japanese names are cited in the original order, that is, surname followed by personal name, with the exception of authors of publications originally written in English under anglicised names. None of Kanai's novels I discuss in this paper has been translated into English. Translation of excerpts quoted in this paper is mine unless otherwise indicated.

(2) Natsume Soseki, Bungakuron, originally published in 1907, Soseki zenshu, Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1925, vol. 8, p. 371. While proofreading this article, a collection of Soseki's critical essays in translation has been published. Natsume Soseki, Theory of Literature and Other Critical Writings, edited by Michael K. Bourdaghs, Atsuko Ueda, and Joseph A. Murphy, New York: Columbia University Press, 2009, includes Joseph A. Murphy's translation of the chapter in question of Bungakuron (pp. 107-120).

(3) Natsume, Soseki zenshu, vol. 8, p. 371.

(4) See Kam Louie and Morris Low eds., Asian Masculinities: The Meaning and Practice of Manhood in China and Japan, London and New York: Routledge Curzon, 2003, especially Louie's explanation of the wen-wu (or its Japanese equivalent bunbu) construct, pp. 4-6.

(5) Natsume, Soseki zenshu, vol. 8, p. 361.

(6) Space does not permit me to elaborate on the malady of seriousness but it is closely linked to the discursive dominance of the search for self in modern Japanese literature. Humour and comedy are by no means absent in modern Japanese culture and literature and yet there has been a strong tendency to regard them as unworthy of serious studies or as mere relics of pre-modern (especially Edo) vulgarity.

(7) For example, Joel R. Cohn, Studies in the Comic Spirit in Modern Japanese Fiction, Cambridge (Massachusetts) and London: Harvard University Press, 1998, discusses three male writers after an overview of 'Japanese Comedy'. Women writers such as Sei Shonagon, Kurahashi Yumiko, and Tanabe Seiko are mentioned only once or twice in passing. In Nakamura Akira, Bunsho dokuhon: Warai no sensu, Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2002, examples from women's texts appear only for a discussion of how various kinds of smile, laughter, grin and so on are described in fiction. In the main part of the book where humour is discussed, only male writers are cited. There is an interesting essay entitled 'Onna no egao' (Women's Smile, originally published in 1943) by the renowned ethnologist Yanagita Kunio, included in the paperback Yanagita Kunio, Fuko naru geijutsu, Warai no hongan, Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, Iwanami Bunko, 1979, 2006, pp.111-123. Yanagita argues that smiles are women's 'natural weapons' that enable them to 'live in this world peacefully' (p. 122).

(8) He was married to the novelist Nogami Yaeko, who is the subject of Barbara Hartley's paper in this issue. See also Eleanor J. Hogan and Inger Sigrun Brodey, 'Jane Austen in Japan: "Good Mother" or "New Woman"?', Persuasions On-Line, Jane Austen Society of North America, vol. 28, no. 2 (Spring 2008), (accessed 10 February 2009).

(9) See further detail in Tamura Michiyoshi's annotated bibliography of Japanese translations and adaptations of Austen, 'Nihon ni okeru Jein Osutin shoshi: Hon'yaku, hon'an shomoku 1-3', Kagawa Daigaku Kyoiku gakubu kenkyu hokoku, Part I, 2003, vol. 120, pp. 39-52; 2004 vol. 121, pp. 39-54; 2007 vol. 127, pp. 19-32.

(10) Even though women have played important roles in translation since the late nineteenth century, they have tended to be assigned peripheral genres such as children's literature, romance and mystery. Because of the canonical status of Austen, the majority of Japanese translations are published by male scholar-translators. We may also note that until relatively recently university professors were mostly men - even at women's colleges.

(11) See Tamura, 'Nihon ni okeru Jein Osutin shoshi', 1, p. 40, citing Nogami, who refers to comments by Soseki and Walter Scott on Austen.

(12) Maugham's Ten Novels and Their Authors is translated by Nishikawa Masami as Sekai no judai shosetsu, 2 vols, Iwanami Shinsho, 1960.

(13) Nojima Hidekatsu has translated Nabokov's Lectures on Literature as Yoroppa bungaku kogi, Tokyo: TBS Britannica, 1982.

(14) Maruya, like Soseki was a professor of English literature before becoming a novelist-critic, particularly known for his studies and translations of James Joyee. He discusses Mansfield Park in Maruya Saiichi, Onna no shosetsu (Women's Novels), Tokyo: Kobunsha, 1998. This short essay mainly consists of plot summary and two long quotations from Mansfield Park in translation, with occasional commentaries by Nabokov, Brigid Brophy, and Maruya himself. While these commentaries are fair and informative, his afterword (p. 225) reveals his extremely condescending attitude towards women writers, whose work, he insists, he would not avoid just because they are written by women.

(15) The elegant title is identical to the title of the final chapter of the early eleventh century masterpiece The Tale of Genji as well as Tanizaki Jun'ichiro's 1959 novel. It also has an intertextual connection to a poem by Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241). See Atsuko Sakaki, 'Kurahashi Yumiko's Negotiations with the Fathers', in Rebecca L. Copeland and Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen eds., The Father-Daughter Plot: Japanese Literary Women and the Law of the Father, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001, pp. 292-326, especially p. 314. See also Fumiko Yamamoto's article 'Kurahashi Yumiko: A Dream of the Present? A Bridge to the Past?', Modern Asian Studies, vol. 18, no. 1 (1984), pp. 137-152. Neither essay, however, discusses the Austen motif in the novel.

(16) The Japanese academic year usually starts in April. There is no Honours system; a Bachelor of Arts degree takes four years and students are expected to write a thesis in the final year.

(17) Kurahashi Yumiko, Yume no ukihashi, paperback, Tokyo: Chuo Koronsha, 1973, P. 39.

(18) In late 1960s and early 1970s, hardcover books in European languages were generally expensive in Japan and library copies were also extremely limited.

(19) Kurahashi, Yume no ukihashi, p. 111.

(20) Kurahashi, Yume no ukihashi, pp. 174-5.

(21) Kurahashi, Yume no ukihashi, p. 192.

(22) Vladimir Nabokov Lectures on Literature, ed., Fredson Bowers, introduction by John Updike, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980, p. 10. It seems an ironic coincidence that this book is introduced by John Updike, the author the 'inferior' girl student chooses in Kurahashi's novel. It is not clear whether Kurahashi might have had access to the Nabokov lecture (circa 1950) before the above posthumous publication but it seems reasonable to assume that the similarity of the handicraft metaphor is coincidence.

(23) Kurahashi, Yume no ukihashi, p. 199.

(24) Kurahashi, p. 193.

(25) Updike's Couples (1968) is mentioned together with the English word swapping in a dialogue between Keiko and Makiko (Kurahashi, Yume no ukihashi, p. 42).

(26) Kurahashi Yumiko, Dokuyaku to shite no bungaku (Literature as Poison), Tokyo: K6dansha Bungei Bunko, 1999, p. 72.

(27) Kurahashi Yumiko, Hen'ai bungakukan (My Favourite Books), Tokyo: Kodansha, 2005, pp. 140-142.

(28) Kurahashi, p. 141.

(29) See, for example, Kondaibo Mie's essay (dated September 2007) in The Jane Austen Society of Japan homepage: (accessed on 23/12/2008). Kondaibo writes 'I really wonder if anyone would feel like reading a book introduced in this way'. Kondaibo also refers to Kurahashi's Yume no ukihashi and remarks that Keiko's view of Austen is arrogant.

(30) Kurahashi, Hen'ai bungakukan, p. 142.

(31) Just as we are familiar with Cassandra's portrait of Jane and their close relationship, Kanai Mieko's readers are aware of her artistic and intellectual collaboration with her older sister Kumiko, whose illustrations and designs have been used for many of Mieko's books.

(32) This title is a parody of Tanizaki Jun'iehiro's Daidokoro taiheiki (Peace in the Kitchen, 1962-63), which in turn is a takeoff of the late fourteenth century chronicle Taiheiki (The Record of Great Peace).

(33) Kanai Mieko, Ren'ai taiheiki, Tokyo: Shueisha, 1999, vol. 1, p. 7.

(34) Like Lydia, the youngest of the Makioka sisters elopes with a young man, jeopardising the family s honour and respectability.

(35) Tanizaki Jun'ichiro, The Makioka Sisters, trans. Edward G. Seidensticker, Tokyo: Turtle, 1958, p. 530.

(36) See, for example, Noguchi Takehiko, Tanizaki Jun'ichiro ron, Tokyo Chuo Koronsha, 1973, pp. 249-50, 256-7. Yukiko's wedding is set for 29 April 1941.

(37) Noguchi, Tanizaki Jun'ichiro ron, p. 250.

(38) Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility, Penguin Books, 2003, p. 353.

(39) Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Penguin Books, 2003, p. 367.

(40) This unfortunate man is named Teiichiro, sharing the first Chinese character with Teinosuke, the husband of the second Makioka sister. Kanai calls Part I of her novel 'Sankan shion' (lit., three cold days and four warm days, indicating the gradual change from winter to spring) which Tanizaki had in mind as an alternative title for Sasameyuki. There is also a comic reference to The Makioka Sisters in Kanai, Ren'ai taiheiki, vol. 1, pp. 115-16, where the eldest sister Yuka, who is working as a librarian in a public library in America, is asked by a man which she would recommend, The Snow Country or The Makioka Sisters. Yuka recommends Kawabata just because it would be too shameful as a Japanese person to say that she hasn't read either. Furthermore, Yuka's former husband, Harold, took Nabokov's literature course at university (Kanai, Ren'ai taiheiki, vol. 1, p. 112).

(41) Kanai, Ren'ai taiheiki, vol. 1, pp. 185-6.

(42) For a discussion of the signifcance of these motifs in this novel, see Tomoko Aoyama, Embroidering Girls' Texts: Fashion and Feminism in the Fiction of Kanai Mieko', US-Japan Women's Journal, no. 29, 2005, pp. 3-21.

(43) In relation to this novel and the parody of a young girl's passionate admiration for a beautiful 'big sister' in a story within the novel, see Tomoko Aoyama, Transgendering shojo shosetsu: Girls' inter-text/sex-uality', in Mark McLelland and Romit Dasgupta eds, Genders, Transgenders and Sexualities in Japan, Routledge, 2005, pp. 49-64.

(44) Kanai Mieko. Matsu koto, wasureru koto?, Tokyo: Heibonsha, 2002, pp. 262-3.

(45) Kanai Mieko, Bunsho kyoshitsu, Tokyo: Fukutake Shoten, Fukutake Bunko, 1987, p. 316.

(46) Kanai Mieko, 'Osutin no kokochiyosa' (The Comfortable Pleasure of Austen), in Kanai, Jubako no sumi, Tokyo: Kodansha, 1998, pp. 317. This short essay was originally published in an appendix to the Austen volume of a world literature collection (in Japanese translation) in January 1995, just before the BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice and Ang Lee s Sense and Sensibility were released. It is interesting that Kanai, who is also noted as a film critic, writes that Austen never attracted film makers and other artists and writers in the same way as Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights inspired Bunuel (1953), Yoshida Kiju (1988), Burnett, du Maurier, Balthus, and Bataille.

(47) 'As a daughter of rhapsody, parody is always already present and alive in the maternal womb; and rhapsody, nourished constantly and reciprocally by its own offspring, is, like Guillaume Apollinaire's autumn crocuses, the daughter of her daughter. Parody is the daughter of rhapsody and vice versa' (Gerard Genette, Palimpsests: Literature in the Second Degree. Trans. C. Newman and C. Doubinsky. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1982/1997. Genette, Palimpsests, p. 15)
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Author:Aoyama, Tomoko
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Nov 1, 2008
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