Against the background of the decades-long international relations dispute over Japan’s wartime military “comfort women” system, this article explores one of the scant literary representations of comfort women in Japanese literature. Through a close reading of Yū Miri’s Hachigatsu no hate (The End of August, 2004), a family saga written by a female author of Korean descent, the article explores how the novel emerged from, participates in, and critically positions itself with respect to the ongoing ideological battles over war histor(iograph)y. Set mostly in colonial Korea, The End of August presents a challenge to historical revisionism’s desire for a single, document-based narrative, for Yū incorporates a multitude of oral accounts of personally experienced history into a nonlinear, highly fragmented narration. Zooming in on an episode in which a young Korean girl is tricked into sexual slavery, The End of August is read against a number of discursive paradigms that govern the debate on comfort women both in Korea and Japan. The article argues that, by drawing on postcolonial ways of understanding history, memory, and trauma, The End of August gives voice to those whose stories previously went unheard, thus allowing for a reading as a statement against the shelving of inconvenient pasts.
Broken Narratives, Multiple Truths: Writing “History” in Yū Miri’s The End of August
Kristina Iwata-Weickgenannt is an associate professor of Japanese modern literature at Nagoya University, Japan, whose work has focused on geographies of marginality and marginalization in contemporary Japanese literature. She has widely published on Zainichi Korean minority literature, literary representations of precarity, and cultural responses to the 3/11 Fukushima disaster of 2011.
Kristina Iwata-Weickgenannt; Broken Narratives, Multiple Truths: Writing “History” in Yū Miri’s The End of August. positions 1 November 2020; 28 (4): 815–840. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-8606510
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