Cavanaugh, Carole cavanaug at
Sat Jul 24 13:32:48 EDT 1999

I am sure we can agree that there  are Japanese people who take their own
lives out of grief, or despair, or to reclaim dignity lost to illness,
rather than for political reasons. Akutagawa Ryûnosuke, despite the uses
made of him by the press and the bundan after his death, killed himself not
because his country was in crisis (what was the crisis in 1927?) but because
he suffered from pathological depression. Kawabata's nationalism was more
subtle, and perhaps more invidious, than Mishima's, but I am unaware of any
connection between a national crisis and his death.  Mishima's crises, on
the other hand, were all of his own making.

Though I never agreed with his politics, I was a student of Eto Jun's at
Tokyo Kôgyô Daigaku, where he taught before he took a position at Keio. He
was the country's most prominent scholar of Natsume Sôseki and I learned a
good deal from him about Japanese literary criticism. Through Eto's efforts,
Karatani Kôjin, who was not yet well known, came to the United States for
the first time as a young visiting scholar. And so, indirectly through Eto,
I got to take courses with Karatani too. Later, Eto arranged for me to meet
Akutagawa Hiroshi, just 18 months before Ryûnosuke's son died from
tuberculosis. I did not maintain a friendship with Eto largely because our
political views were so different and because his attitudes about
professional women were so discouraging,  but I will always be grateful to
him for the opportunity he gave me to meet the actor who had played the
student in The Mistress (Gan), a film so evocative of the time when his own
father was alive.

Eto Jun was devoted to his wife. It makes perfect sense to me, having met
them both, that a life without her was a dim prospect for him. He was a
political man, one whose politics most of us shun, but perhaps his death was
simply an act of very human grief.

--Carole Cavanaugh

> ----------
> From: 	shh at
> Reply To: 	KineJapan at
> Sent: 	Saturday, July 24, 1999 2:19 PM
> To: 	KineJapan at
> Subject: 	Eto-ology
> Echoing Anne?s surprise at the coverage of Eto Jun?s suicide:
> Despite the apparently immediate reason for Eto?s suicide portrayed in
> the Asahi Shimbun as an inability to face the world alone after his wife
> ?s death, it is surprising that no attempt was made to link Eto?s
> suicide to anything outside of his relationship to his college
> sweetheart and lifetime partner. Considering both Eto?s early postwar
> pronouncements Japan should possess its own nuclear armaments to
> liberate itself from the yoke of the American domination (the Japanese
> nation-state being a mere product of America) and secondly, the
> tradition of suicide by prominent literary figures during times of
> crisis, (beginning early in the century with Akutagawa Ryunosuke through
> Mishima Yukio and Kawabata Yasunari two years after Mishima), it does
> seem rather odd not to connect Eto?s suicide, at least metaphorically,
> with the looming conflict in the region that has played itself out
> mainly in territorial related naval skirmishes over the past couple
> months involving both Koreas, China, Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines.
> At any rate, Eto?s death doesn?t seem to just be part of the recent
> suicide boom inspired by the economic recession (32,863 people  and
> counting in 1998 according to the Mainichi Daily News).
> Sharon Hayashi
> University of Chicago

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