Fictions of Desire: Narrative Form in the Novels of Nagai Kafu

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The literary career of Nagai Kafu is generally seen as an act of nostalgia, the quintessential return to Japan in the form of a long search for the traditional past in a rapidly modernizing Tokyo. Kafu is best known as a lyrical writer of elegies to a vanished Tokyo, whose work is stylistically rich yet lacks intellectual depth. Rather than focus on the writer's lyricism and imagery as other critics have done before him, the author examines Kafu's fiction in terms of narrative strategy, placing him squarely within some of the most important currents of literary modernism - at the nexus of naturalism and the largely antithetical development of the modernist reflexive novel. Snyder argues persuasively that Kafu both learned from and ultimately parodied the naturalists, thus creating a kind of self-conscious fiction, which rather than attempting the naturalist strategy of presenting real life , draws attention to its very fictionality and the central place of language in narrative.