Talk “Inoue Hisashi’s whodunit of literary history”

As part of our DAAD-JSPS Kyoto-Heidelberg Joint Research Project, I will hold a talk about a part of my dissertation concerning Inoue Hisashi’s early work. If you have the time, visit us at Karl Jaspers Centre in Heidelberg on the 9th of November, room 212, starting at 9 o’clock.


Inoue Hisashi’s preoccupation with the Edo period Gesaku literature has earned him a reputation as a Neogesaku writer. Almost all his Gesaku works focus on the authors of this pre-modern entertainment literature, be it the drama The Inner and Outer Gennai Frog War (Omote ura Gennai kaeru gassen『表裏源内蛙合戦』, 1971), dedicated to the life of Hiraga Gennai, or the Naoki Prize-winning novel Handcuffed Double Suicide (Tegusari shinjū『手鎖心中』, 1972), which also takes the topoi and plot from a kibyōshi of Santō Kyōden.

In the collection Life Stories of Gesaku Literati (Gesaku sha meimei den『戯作者銘々伝』, 1979) each story is dedicated to one writer – to whom, and in which way his life or work comes to light, remains unclear to the end. What makes this collection unusual is that each story is a conversation of which only the text of one of the speakers is offered to read. It is the reader’s responsibility to find the narrator, the addressee and the subject in the course of the narrative from the information left behind in the text. A certain degree of literary-historical background knowledge is advantageous – the fact that the narratives nevertheless inspire reflection and entertain is due to literary techniques, some of which I would like to present and analyze in the talk.