Taku Yamamoto (Kanazawa University, Japan)

Posted on Friday, March 5th, 2010

‘Locating the Pacific Stevenson in Japanese Literature’

Robert Louis Stevenson was highly appreciated among prewar Japanese novelists. While a prominent author, Soseki Natsume (1867-1916) ardently admired Stevenson’s sophisticated narrative style especially of New Arabian Nights, Atsushi Nakajima (1909-42) was more interested in his later life in Samoa and wrote a full-length biographical novel Light, Wind, and Dreams (1942), based on The Vailima Letters.  This paper will examine Stevenson as a literary object to locate the Pacific Stevenson and its socio-historical significance in the Japanese literary scene.

Light, Wind and Dreams is not a mere translation of Letters but appears to be a creative work when we see how the author conflated the original materials and his own literary comments. Critics of Japanese literature have mainly discussed Nakajima’s biographical aspects such as his physical fragility and experience as an educational bureaucrat in colonial Palau, exploring his intention of writing about the Scottish tusitala who had died almost half a century before.  However, they have not paid much attention to the differences among the ‘real’ Stevenson in Samoa and the RLS in his own writings and consequently failed to notice the significance of Nakajima’s version of Stevenson.  Considering the fact that the prewar Japan was one of the colonial powers but the only non-Western imperial country, we will recognize that Nakajima’s creation is not so simple as it seems but rather requires careful readings of both English and Japanese materials to unravel the complicated tangle of textual, biographical, and historical elements.  An atrabilious and domestic Stevenson in Light, Wind and Dreams is a product of Nakajima’s view about a sympathetic colonizer towards the indigenous tribes and his cognitive limitation over the international affairs of colonialism.

Categorized as Abstracts

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