Kannani and Document of Flames

Two Japanese Colonial Novels

Kannani and Document of Flames

Book Pages: 208 Illustrations: Published: June 2005

Author: Katsuei Yuasa

Translator: Mark W. Driscoll

Asian Studies > East Asia, Literature and Literary Studies > Fiction, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

This volume makes available for the first time in English two of the most important novels of Japanese colonialism: Yuasa Katsuei’s Kannani and Document of Flames. Born in Japan in 1910 and raised in Korea, Yuasa was an eyewitness to the ravages of the Japanese occupation. In both of the novels presented here, he is clearly critical of Japanese imperialism. Kannani (1934) stands alone within Japanese literature in its graphic depictions of the racism and poverty endured by the colonized Koreans. Document of Flames (1935) brings issues of class and gender into sharp focus. It tells the story of Tokiko, a divorced woman displaced from her Japanese home who finds herself forced to work as a prostitute in Korea to support herself and her child. Tokiko eventually becomes a landowner and oppressor of the Koreans she lives amongst, a transformation suggesting that the struggle against oppression often ends up replicating the structure of domination.

In his introduction, Mark Driscoll provides a nuanced and engaging discussion of Yuasa’s life and work and of the cultural politics of Japanese colonialism. He describes Yuasa’s sharp turn, in the years following the publication of Kannani and Document of Flames, toward support for Japanese nationalism and the assimilation of Koreans into Japanese culture. This abrupt ideological reversal has made Yuasa’s early writing—initially censored for its anticolonialism—all the more controversial. In a masterful concluding essay, Driscoll connects these novels to larger theoretical issues, demonstrating how a deep understanding of Japanese imperialism challenges prevailing accounts of postcolonialism.


“The greatest contribution this volume makes to the field of Japanese studies is to introduce English-language readers to a little-known Japanese novelist. . . . [The introduction and conclusion are] interesting and thought-provoking. . . .” — Nobuko Miyams Ochner, Monumenta Nipponica

"Kannani and Document of Flames . . . is a far more valuable contribution to the study of 'Japanese (Japanese-language) literature and postcolonial studies than its unassuming title suggests. . . . [T]he volume reinvigorates the discussion of Japanese literature. . . [This volume] will be an effective tool for both scholarship and teaching." — Edward Mack, Postcolonial Studies

"Driscoll's concluding essay is the book's highlight, with the result that Kannani and Document of Flames is best regarded not as pair of novellas with supporting essays but as a commendable disquisition on postcolonialism, bolstered by the inclusion of newly translated source material." — Damien Weaver, Bookslut

"Mark Driscoll translated two of Yuasa Katsuei's novels for academic purposes, but they're a good read for regular people, too." — Giant Robot

"The story of Ryuji and Kannani's relationship has the flavor of a fairy tale, with scenes of innocent beauty (kite-flying, sharing sesame candy) interspersed with scenes of shocking brutality (Japanese schoolboys raping a Korean schoolgirl with a tree branch). . . . [Driscoll's] provocative afterword . . . is a valuable contribution to a field of research he describes as the X-Files of Japanese studies." — Mark Austin, Daily Yomiuri

"What was it like, however, to live in this premature 'multicultural postcoloniality?' We get an excellent sense of that from the novels Kannani and Document of Flames by Katsuei Yuasa. . . . Yuasa's novels are a reminder that, as bad as things ultimately turned out, there was a moment when it seemed things might have been different." — David Cozy, Japan Times

“The publication of these translations may well be remembered as an epoch-making event. Mark Driscoll has made a major contribution to our understanding of Japanese modernity in all of its complexity, of postcoloniality as a theoretical concept and political praxis, and of the politics of Asian studies as a discipline. Moreover, he has rescued a nearly forgotten figure whose work speaks a message that—as Driscoll demonstrates so lucidly—needs to be heard by English-speaking readers today.” — Michael K. Bourdaghs, author of The Dawn that Never Comes: Shimazaki Toson and Japanese Nationalism


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Yuasa Katsuei (1910–1972) was the author of more than twenty novellas and novels and many essays and travel accounts. Mark Driscoll is Assistant Professor of Japanese and International Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is a coeditor of Prosthetic Territories: Politics and Hypertechnologies.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

Kannani 37

Document of Flames 99

Conclusion: Postcoloniality in Reverse 161

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3517-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3505-4
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