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Enduring Postwar
Yasuoka Shotaro and Literary Memory in Japan

Author(s): Kendall Heitzman

Yasuoka Shōtarō (1920–2013) was perfectly situated to become Japan's premier chronicler of the Showa period (1926–89). Over fifty years as a writer, Yasuoka produced stories, novels, plays, and essays, as well as monumental histories that connected his own life to those of his ancestors. He was also the only major Japanese writer to live in the American South during the Civil Rights Movement, when he spent most of an academic year at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. In 1977, he translated Alex Haley's Roots into Japanese.

For a long period, Yasuoka was at the center of the Japanese literary establishment, serving on prize committees and winning the major literary prizes of the era: the Akutagawa, the Noma, the Yomiuri, and the Kawabata. But what makes Yasuoka fascinating as a writer is the way that he consciously, deliberately resisted accepted narratives of modern Japanese history through his approach to personal and collective memory.

In Enduring Postwar, the first literary and biographical study of Yasuoka in English, Kendall Heitzman explores the element of memory in Yasuoka's work in the context of his life and evolving understanding of postwar Japan.

Biography of Author(s)

Kendall Heitzman is an assistant professor of Japanese literature and culture at the University of Iowa. He is the author of a number of articles on contemporary Japanese literature and has translated into English stories and essays by a number of prominent contemporary Japanese writers.


  • "Heitzman's close readings of Yasuoka's early fiction and nonfiction, his analysis of the impact the South had on subsequent writing, and his involvement in another of the writer's passions, film, show clearly how 'Yasuoka's work to endure the postwar has helped ensure that the postwar will endure.' Enduring Postwar will be of interest to scholars of Japan and the American South."
    Davinder Bhowmik, University of Washington
  • "The erudition of this study distinguishes it from many books in the field of Japanese literature and cultural history. Heitzman writes with a very impressive grasp of the full sweep of modern Japanese literary and cultural history. It is worth noting that his style is clear, concise, and largely jargon-free."
    James Dorsey, Dartmouth College