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In Session: Spaces Seen and Unseen in Literature in Japanese 1989-2019
4: Spacing the Memory: Shiraishi Kazufumi and the Limits of Human Cognition
Friday, March 26, 2021
8:30am – 10:00am EDT
Justyna Weronika Kasza
Seinan Gakuin University, Japan
Memory is a salient theme in the works of Shiraishi Kazufumi. It serves to reconstruct the past but by making forgetfulness an immanent part of human memory, Shiraishi challenges the notion of truth and the reliability of the act of storytelling.
However, his narratives reveal yet another dimension of human memory: its strong connection to “space”. The recurring images of basho, tokoro, sekai demonstrate that it is not only time that shapes our memory, but also the space.
Through the references to selected examples from Shiraishi’s novels, Kono yo no zenbu o teki ni mawashite, Boku no naka no kowareteinai bubun, Kioku no nagisa nite, Koko wa watashitachi no nai basho, I explore a spatial dimension of human cognition, as well as its limits.
My approach assumes that Shiraishi’s description of the interdependence between “memory” and “space” constitutes, to a certain degree, the re-interpretation of Heideggerian notions of “time and being”, replaced by “place and being” (similar to space-oriented philosophy or topology of the self by Watsuji Tetsurō)
Finally, I would like to exceed the framework of Japanese literature in order to delineate similarities, as well as differences between Shiraishi and some other contemporary writers who changed the paradigm of thinking about “memory, “truth” and “fiction”, and who made “memory” and “space” recurring narrative elements: Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending, Orham Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence, Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle, Paul Auster’s 4321.