With defeat in the Pacific War in 1945, the very notion of ‘community’ (as described by Benedict Anderson) in Japan was under threat, the future of the nation dependent, as never before, on the response of the international community. Viewed in a different light, however, the slate was clean—the possibilities, indeed the need, for revised terms of reference for this ‘imagined community’ now of paramount importance. The ensuing attempts to define the parameters of the emerging national identity were far-reaching and multi-faceted, seeking as they did to encompass the memories of loss and devastation through the realm of everyday culture as well as through political discourse. The focus of this paper will be on the contribution to this radical reassessment of the relationship between the nation and the individual made by the group of authors collectively known as the Sengoha (après guerre literary coterie). More specifically, I shall be examining the novellas, Shin'ya no shuen (The midnight banquet, 1947) and Eien naru josho (The eternal preface, 1948), two early texts by the author, Shiina Rinzō, arguably the most representative Sengoha writer, for evidence of the extent to which this literature helped to shape and modify the ‘imagined community’ of Japan.
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