«Спор о бессюжетном романе»: литературные дискуссии Акутагавы и Танидзаки
This article is devoted to one of the most well-known discussions in the literary circles of Japan at the beginning of the twentieth century, the dispute between Akutagava Ryunoske and Tanizaki Junichiro about the essence of prose, which was called the “plotless novel” debate. In 1927, when the discussion was published in the magazine “Kaizo”, literary life was concentrated in the circles of the creative elite or bundan, within which various associations and magazines were created. During the discussion, Akutagawa proposed the concept of “poetic spirit” in a prose work as the central category of his aesthetic theory, implying the dominant role of the hero’s lyrical mood over the storyline. Akutagawa considered the work containing the “poetic spirit” to be the pinnacle of prose creativity and called such a prose “a story without a story”, believing that the “interesting story” and interest in the story as such diminishes the quality of the work, bringing it closer to the mass, entertaining literature. Tanizaki, whose works Akutagawa criticized for “an interesting plot,” defended the story with many plot lines, arguing that this creates the “architectural beauty” of the work, which implies, firstly, its structural complexity, and secondly, provides internal energy. In contrast to Akutagawa, Tanizaki did not consider the general availability of literature as a quality that crossed out its artistic value. In essence, this discussion, in which the recognized classics of modern literature present the basis of their aesthetic views, is a dispute about the role of pure literature (junbungaku) and mass (taishu: bungaku) - a problem that will be most developed after Akutagawa’s death. This is the main significance of this dispute, which should be rather called a discussion, since there was no fundamental difference between the writers.
The discussion took place due to differences in attitude, character, aesthetic perception, psychological organization of the writers, as well as the polarity of their life moments at that time. For Akutagawa, prone to melancholy, rational analysis and intellectually perceiving the world, the end of his life and the end of the era of "pure" literature was nearing, and Tanizaki, demonstrating a sensual-mystical worldview and confidently gathering the fruits of glory, still had much to do in his literary career.