Stop thinking! Suspension of thought and political representation in the fiction of Takahashi Genichirō
Filippo Cervelli (University of Oxford)
Paper short abstract:
The paper explores how suspension of critical thought is played out in the characters in Takahashi Genichirō's fiction. It argues that in such works this phenomenon is at the core of the great discrepancy between Japanese citizens and political representation often denounced by the author.
Paper long abstract:
Takahashi Genichirō is a prolific author, his production ranging from postmodern novels to short stories, from essays to political writing. He has written often about the distance between contemporary Japanese citizens and politics, especially exploring the lack of adequate political representation felt by the population and the discrepancy between the words used by politicians and the people's reality they should represent. By analyzing selected works in Takahashi's vast oeuvre, this paper argues that a central factor for this distance is a general suspension of critical thought on crucial issues. The characters in works such as "Godira" (2001) or "'Aku' to tatakau" (Fighting with 'Evil', 2010), do not exercise critical thinking: they do not reflect on life and the true underpinnings of the world, but prefer to find solace in the repetition of habit in the immediately relatable dimension of their everyday life. As a consequence, people find themselves isolated from the bigger issues in life, such as national and international politics, or dismantling nuclear plants. Furthermore, such emphasis on the individual's close present prevents the citizens from reflecting on their past, and from making sense of memory. This isolation can then be exploited by politicians, who do not wish critical re-evaluation of controversial issues in Japan's past, such as the comfort women case (as denounced in several articles by Takahashi). This study focuses on how suspension of critical thought is portrayed in Takahashi's fiction, paying attention to what its political and existential values are in the relationship between Japanese citizens and the wider world/society. Together with the abovementioned works, publications such as "Koi suru genpatsu" (The Nuclear Plant in Love, 2011) and "Sayonara Cristopher Robin" (2012) are analyzed. Written right before and after the 3.11 Triple Disaster, they both explore how 'that day' was crucial in exhorting the Japanese people to think critically. Exploring a central issue in this versatile author's fiction, this study highlights what he considers the public enterprise of the novel, namely that of reaching out to people helping them mature, and thus aims to shed further light on the relationships between literature and politics.