Margit Juurikas (Tallinn University, Estonia) “Death and Mourning in Post-Fukushima Literature”


On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck the east coast of Japan. There were of course different kinds of reactions to this catastrophe. For example, similarly to the US terrorist attacks in 2001, after which writers started to create compelling narratives of the atrocity and its causes that fed the Americans appetite for explanation (Baer 2002), one of the reactions to the 3/11 in Japan was also literary, offering a kind of “therapeutic way to heal a traumatised nation” (Gebhardt 2014: 8).

Contemporary Japanese writers, treating literature as one possible way of mourning, have responded in a variety of ways since disaster struck on March 11. Despite the varieties of reactions, it is not surprising that one of the main themes for writers of shinsaigo bungaku or “post-Fukushima literature” (Kimura 2013) is death and/or grieving.

Literature is definitely a privileged language that can give form to those spectres of existence that resist the traditional ontological boundaries of being and non-being, alive and dead. Literary treatments of death reveal much about individual writers and the culture within which those authors write. For me the most fascinating shinsaigo bungaku novel is Itõ Seikō`s Sōzō rajio (Imagination radio, 2013). As the protagonist of Seikō`s novel is a dead person or haunting ghost, I would like, using Derrida’s theory of hauntology, to discuss the possibility of literally “translating” the trauma of loss in a situation where there is no dead body left to mourn. Haunting is the mourning of a traumatic event, a coming to terms with some horrible practice or occurrence. But will listening to the voice of a ghost alleviate the grief? Is the voice of death useful for a living person?