In the work of writer Abe Kōbō (1924-1993), characters are alienated both from themselves and from one another. Through close readings of Abe’s work, Richard Calichman reveals how time and writing have the ability to unground identity. Over time, attempts to create unity of self cause alienation, despite government attempts to convince people to form communities (and nations) to recapture a sense of wholeness. Art, then, must resist the nation-state and expose its false ideologies.
Calichman argues that Abe’s attack on the concept of national affiliation has been neglected through his inscription as a writer of Japanese literature. At the same time, the institution of Japan Studies works to tighten the bond between nation-state and individual subject. Through Abe’s essays and short stories, he shows how the formation of community is constantly displaced by the notions of time and writing. Beyond Nation thus analyzes the elements of Orientalism, culturalism, and racism that often underlie the appeal to collective Japanese identity.