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Writing and the Japanese Body in Mario Bellatin's Fiction

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Published on Dec 15, 2011

Lecture by Dr. Ignacio Lopez-Calvo
Professor of Latin American Literature
University of California, Merced

Dr. Ignacio Lopez-Calvo is Professor of Latin American Literature at the University of California, Merced. He is the author of five books including Latino Los Angeles in Film and Fiction: The Cultural Production of Social Anxiety (University of Arizona Press, 2011), Imaging the Chinese in Cuban Literature and Culture (University Press of Florida, 2008) and "God and Trujillo": Literary and Cultural Representations of the Dominican Dictator (University Press of Florida, 2005). He has edited and co-edited several volumes and published numerous articles and book chapters on Hispanic literary and cultural studies. This presentation explores the potential relationship between writing, physical deformity, and the creation of an ostensible Japanese origin for the characters in Mario Bellatin's short novels, El jardin de la senora Murakami, Shiki Nagaoka: una nariz de ficcion, Biografia ilustrada de Mishima, and a short story, "Bola negra."
Overall, Bellatin resorts to Japanese characters to distance himself from his own writings, as if it were the culture that is the most alien to his own. His lucubration about reading and writing are sometimes accompanied of exocitizing and orientalist overtones, which he even mocks on occasion. Even if Japanis used as a literary mask to avoid providing specific temporal and spatial frameworks, the image of this culture that stays in the readers' mind ends up being associated with submission, physical deformity, suicide, and cruelty. However, Bellatin seems to be aware of and comfortable with this. Cultural authenticity, therefore, is not one of the author's concerns. He plays with his own reception of a Japan translated and mediated by other westerners, perhaps because the other Japan would be inaccessible to him.

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