on the road

@ Wellesley College, Saturday October 22

The 38th Parallax: Nakagami Kenji Writes Home from Korea

the line, first proposed by Japan in 1896, that roughly demarcates N and S Korea

photos by Araki Nobuyoshi from the photo-prose novel *Monogatari, Seoul*

When fiction-writer Nakagami Kenji died in 1992, fellow writers mourned him as “the last Japanese writer.” Others remembered him as the most important writer born after WW2. These mourners and others have esteemed Nakagami’s work for its fierce wranglings with Japanese national literature (kokubungaku) at every level. My talk turns away from this standoff with Japanese literature, to explore Nakagami’s writings on, about and from Korea–thematically, these comprise the largest cluster of writings in his oeuvre. These works appear primarily as photo essay-novels made in collaboration with renowned photographers (Araki Nobuyoshi, Shinoyama Kishin) and published between 1978 and 1985. In this talk, I explore how Nakagami turned to Korean cities and literature as models for a kind of historically alive and politicized modernity that Japan had abandoned or spurned during its own era of high-speed economic growth. I suggest that Nakagami’s late writings advocate a parallax vision of Japanese literature as belonging to Japan, but also connected to the global South, including Korea.