Saturday, December 05, 2015

"again he sent another; and him they killed" - Jun Eto and Soseki Natsume


Jun Eto and Soseki Natsume

Jun Eto (1932-1999), a notable critic, had a cousin who was the mother of the current crown princess of Japan,

His wife died of cancer one year before his death.  Or her death might have shortened his life, since he was so much disappointed by her death.  After his wife's death, he wrote an essay about her illness and death.  It sold well remarkably.  In the essay, he wrote that he almost lost his will of living.

Eto's wife showed symptom of cancer just a year before her death.  So, their life changed so suddenly.  Eto passionately took care of her while writing some literature works and teaching in a university in Tokyo.  But he did not tell her that her illness was cancer.  After her death, months of hard life of providing care for his wife, though hospitalized, Eto himself got seriously ill.  But illness did not kill him; he committed a suicide.

Jun Eto is famous for his critical essays about the great novelist Soseki Natsume (1867-1916).  Soseki is the most respected author as a groundbreaking novelist who contributed to establishment of modern Japanese literature.

After the fall of the samurai regime in 1868, the Japanese society underwent a great paradigm change along with modernization and Westernization.  Soseki Natsume presented a new style and a mind set for new Japanese literature suitable for the era.  Most of Japanese authors today are virtually successors of their forerunners most of whom were directly or indirectly influenced by disciples of Soseki Natsume.

Soseki Natsume was dispatched to England by the Imperial Government of Japan for study of English literature between 1900 and 1903.  After returning to Japan he taught English literature in the Imperial University for Tokyo.  However, in 1907, he quit the teaching job to be a professional novelist.  Roughly speaking, Soseki was an active write in the era between the Japanese-Russo war and the First World War when Japan was successfully carrying out its Industrial Revolution to be admitted as the the rising power in Asia by the Western countries.

Modern individualism in the Japanese literature was one of big themes for Soseki Natusme.  Facing the global influence of the Western culture, Japanese had to adopt a new way of dealing with themselves.  Conventional mind sets could not cope with the great influx of the Western culture.  Though power of traditions and customs unique to the Japanese culture still worked strongly in all the local communities in Japan, modern Japanese people working and living in Westernized industries, cities, and environments with interfaces open to the world came to have different mindsets than those developed in the country whose door had been closed for 250 years before the middle of the 19th century.  Soseki Natsume gave a kind of framework to express those Japanese for themselves.

For example, in the samurai era of Japan, it was unthinkable that a husband loved his wife so much that he became seriously ill and committed a suicide after her death like Jun Eto,  In this context, Jun Eto embodied an influence of his study target Soseki Natsume: modern individualism in Japan.

Jun Eto went to the Princeton University for study supported by the Rockefeller Foundation in 1962.  And then, he taught the history of the Japanese literature in the University till he left the US in 1964.  But he was accompanied by his wife.  They lived together in the US.  And when they returned to Japan, they traveled Europe.

In a train on a railway line in Europe, the Etos got acquainted with an old married couple.  The old husband said to Jun Eto, "Ordinary people got out for world travel after retirement.  But, you, a young couple, are doing it while you are still young.  It is great."

Though Soseki Natsume went abroad only once for England, Jun Eto and his wife traveled the world together often after 1964 till their death in 1998 and 1999.  Eto was still writing a new book about Soseki Natsume when he died.


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Mar 12:5 And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some.
Mar 12:6 Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son.
Mar 12:7 But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be our's.
Mar 12:8 And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.
Mar 12:9 What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.