Reading Classics in the East: The Myth of Western Literature in Dai Sijie, Murakami Haruki, and Azar Nafisi

  • Niccolò Scaffai University of Losanna
Keywords: Orientalism, European Literature, Responsibility, Novel, Non-fiction, Second World War, Dictatorship

Abstract

This study focuses on three recent literary works (fiction and non-fiction novels) written by authors of Asiatic origins: the French-speaking Chinese writer, Dai Sijie, the Iranian professor, Azar Nafisi, and the Japanese writer, Murakami Haruki. In the titles of these international bestsellers (Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, Reading Lolita in Tehran, and Kafka on the Shore), we find an oxymoron: the name of a famous, canonical Western writer or character is used in an unusual context, linked to the geography of the near or far East. The consequent effect of estrangement can restore strength to literature, perhaps with greater determination than is possible in Western cultures. By using (and reversing) the coordinates of Edward Said’s idea of Orientalism and, as in Kafka on the Shore, certain concepts of the Lacanian theory, this study analyzes the transfer of the European literary myths towards Eastern cultures.

 

Author Biography

Niccolò Scaffai, University of Losanna

Niccolò Scaffai, born in 1975, is Associate Professor of Modern and Contemporary Italian Literature at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. His fields of research and teaching are contemporary Italian poetry, literary theory, and comparative modern literature.  He is the author of Montale e il libro di poesia (2002); Il poeta e il suo libro. Retorica e storia del libro di poesia nel Novecento (2005); and La regola e l’invenzione (2007). He has edited special issues of Compar(a)ison. An International Journal of Comparative Literature entitled “Memoria e oblio. Le scritture del tempo” (2009) and “Ecology, Nature and Literature” (2010). He is editor-in-chief of Between and editor of Semicerchio. Rivista di poesia comparata.

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Published
2011-11-24
How to Cite
Scaffai, N. (2011). Reading Classics in the East: The Myth of Western Literature in Dai Sijie, Murakami Haruki, and Azar Nafisi. Between, 1(2). https://doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/288