Sokendai Review of Cultural and Social Studies


The Image of White Russians
in Kitamura Kenjirō’s “Kuhai”

HAN Ling Ling

(SOKENDAI (The Graduate University for Advanced Studies),
School of Cultural and Social Studies,
Department of Japanese Studies)

Key words:

Kitamura Kenjirō, Manchukuo, Manchurian literature, colonial literature, “Kuhai,” White Russian, Chinese Eastern Railway, reassignment of Chinese Eastern Railway, cultural restrictions, wine

This paper discusses a short novel by Kitamura Kenjirō entitled “Kuhai” written in the year 1944. It was published in Manchu kōron and simultaneously in a Chinese translated version with the title “Jiu Song” and featured in a Chinese-language journal called Yi wen zhi, attesting the fact that by the time “Kuhai” appeared, it had already drew attention from the Chinese literary world.

Kitamura was born in the year 1904 in Tokyo. When he was a child he moved with his family to Dalian in Kwantung. Soon after completing middle school, he returned to Tokyo, where he started his literary activities while he was still a student at Aoyama Gakuin and later at Kokugakuin University. Together with literary figures like Ibuse Masuji and Dazai Osamu, he got involved with several literary journals such as Bungeipuraningu, Sakuhin, and Nihon roman-ha, and established himself in the field of Japanese literature. In the year 1937, he once again relocated to Changchun (formerly Hsinking, the capital city of Manchukuo) and there he started a journal called Manchuroman and also penned the novel Shunren. With this he became the only professional writer in Manchukuo at that time.

“Kuhai” depicts the life story of a white Russian man whose life was deeply affected by the transfer of the Chinese Eastern Railways (also known as Chinese Far East Railways or Manchurian Railways) from Russian to Japanese ownership. Kozlovck was a vintner who took thirty years to make authentic wine. Nonetheless, due to the business slowdown that resulted from the change in ownership of the Chinese Eastern Railways, his friend Ivan, who was an admirer of his wine, was reassigned back to Russia and with this he lost his good friend. Despite this, Kozlovck never compromised on his love for wine. On the other hand, his lost friend Ivan, after wandering in Russia for seven or eight years, finally made his way back to Kozlovck’s house. But, Ivan was not in a position to appreciate Kozlovck’s wine any more. When the two old friends met, they could do nothing but continue drinking.

When Kitamura wrote “Kuhai” in 1944, it was a period when there were many cultural restrictions that prevented free literary expression. Hence, it was through this short work that Kitamura expressed his discontent. In other words, he condemned the period when, despite having interest in literary activities, people were not allowed the scope to do so. This resentment was the factor that brought his work so many sympathizers in the Chinese literary world.

Kitamura, who wrote mostly from the perspective of a spectator to that date, broke away from his former writing style and dexterously fused his presence as a writer with the character of his protagonist in this small work. This helped him to express the mental state of the white Russian in the most vivid manner possible. Especially, as his focus was on the psychological state of the characters, hence his critical observations and insights into human nature are the key features of this work.