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Sunday, August 04, 2019

How Japan's modern literature came under Nietzsche's spell | Books - The Japan Times

Damian Flanagan, writer and literary critic says, To truly understand some of 20th-century Japan's most iconic literary works, you have to go back to ancient Greek tragedy and the "Dionysian" philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche.

The influencer: Friedrich Nietzsche inspired many, including Japanese author Yukio Mishima, who was said to have had an intense bond with the German philosopher. 
Wine, dance, frenzied rapture and theatrical performance. These are just some of the characteristics of the god Dionysus, who, in Euripides’ masterpiece play of ancient Greece, “The Bacchae,” arrives in the city of Thebes, determined to exact a terrible vengeance on Pentheus — the ruler of the city and representative of stern rationality and order — for having refused to recognize his ancient divinity.

Partly inspired by the play, the great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche crafted his first major work, “The Birth of Tragedy From the Spirit of Music,” arguing that the beauty of art rises not out of mere rationality, but out of the balance between Appoline and Dionysian elements.

After a working life spent producing works that overturned traditional Christian morality and challenging the haughty sense of imperial order of the 19th century, Nietzsche succumbed to mental illness in 1889 after producing his supreme masterpiece, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.” In his subsequent letters, he frequently signed himself simply as “Dionysus.”...

The first ripples of dissent came with the “On An Aesthetic Lifestyle” debate, triggered by literary provocateur Takayama Chogyu, which raged among literary circles in Japan for two years from 1901.

Soon, the entire Japanese literary world began engaging with Nietzsche’s ideas, attracted to his powerful critique of Western culture, his aestheticism and his call to break into the irrational side of the human mind. “This is Oriental,” the greatest literary figure of the day, Natsume Soseki, wrote in English in the margin of his heavily-thumbed copy of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” at the time he penned “I Am a Cat” in 1905-06.
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Source: The Japan Times