Yasuko Hirabayashi: Perseverance in adversity

  Yasuko Hirabayashi (1905-1972) is an important female writer who experienced the transformation of Japanese society before and after World War II. To commemorate Yasuko Hirabayashi’s achievements in literature, Yasuko Hirabayashi Memorial Hall was built in her hometown, Suwa City, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. The scene in the museum reproduces Yasuko’s living room before his death, including Yasuko’s daily necessities and her and writer friends information about their contacts, etc. On the second floor of the Suwa City Library, there is also a special “Hirabayashi Memorial Library” to store Yasuko’s collection of books.
  Yasuko was born in a village by Lake Suwa, she was the third daughter in the family. Taizi’s ancestors were very prestigious and economically powerful in the local area. His grandfather was the head of the village, ran the silk industry, and participated in political activities. But by the time of Taizi’s father’s generation, the family was in decline. The price of raw silk plummeted due to Matsukata’s fiscal policy at the time, and the Hirabayashi family went bankrupt. The father, who was the son-in-law, took responsibility and ran around to deal with the debt. When Yasuko was born, the Hirabayashi family was farming more than 70 mu of land, but because of a large amount of debt, they were still living in poverty. Yasuko’s father traveled to North Korea to revitalize the family. Yasuko’s mother ran a grocery store while farming, and the young Yasuko helped her mother take care of the store since she was 10 years old. The hardships of this life had a huge impact on her tortuous life path in the future. In Yasuko’s short story “The Declining Family”, readers can see the process of Yasuko’s family turning from prosperity to decline.
  The sense of poverty brought to the young Yasuko by the downfall of her family has gradually tempered her tenacious willpower, and at the same time made her more eager to succeed. The young Yasuko persevered in studying hard in an attempt to change her own destiny, and was finally admitted to Kamisuwa Township Suwa High School for Girls with the first place. This character of unremitting efforts to get rid of difficulties and achieve success runs through Yasuko’s life.

Yasuko Hirabayashi

  Yasuko’s encounter with literature can be traced back to when she was 11 years old. At that time, the young Yasuko was exposed to Shirakaba school literature, naturalism literature and Nordic literature, so he received literary enlightenment. At the age of 12, he had a strong interest in literature due to reading Russian literature, etc., and was determined to become a writer. After that, Yasuko read a wide range of literary works in middle school, especially paying attention to Nordic literature and Russian literature. After being admitted to a girls’ high school, Yasuko also indirectly learned the sketching techniques of the Alorama School from the instructor Tsuchiya Buniko, and was deeply impressed by Japanese writers Shiga Naoya and Kunikida Doppo.
  When Yasuko was 15 years old, she was very moved after reading Zola’s “Nara’s Runaway”. She admired the translator Sakai Toshihiko very much, and even wrote a letter to Sakai Toshihiko. During the following school trip, Yasuko planned to visit Sakai Toshihiko in Tokyo, but failed in the end. At the same time, Yasuko was infected by the speeches given by Bunji Suzuki (trade union activist) of the General Alliance, and then read books such as “Das Kapital” and “The Sower”, consciously aware of socialist ideas. In 1922, Yasuko came to Tokyo after graduation and became a trainee exchange operator at the Central Telephone Office. In fact, another reason Yasuko went to Tokyo was to get in touch with Toshihiko Sakai, whom she admired, but she never thought that she would be fired a month later because she spoke to Toshihiko Sakai at work.

Jie Liyan

  After that, Yasuko worked as a clerk in a German bookstore and began to live with anarchist Yamamoto Torzo. In 1923, Taizi was arrested and imprisoned for being in close contact with anarchists. The next year, he wandered to North Korea and worked in a North Korean bank with a meager salary. After the Great Kanto Earthquake, she came to Dalian, China, and worked as a cook in a railway engineering company. It was very hard work and her salary was very low. The fatigue and malnutrition made her suffer from night blindness. Yasuko’s daughter was born during hospitalization, but died 17 days after birth due to malnutrition. What is even more tragic is that Yamamoto Huzo was charged with disrespect and went to prison for two years. Yasuko’s famous work “In the Free Ward” is based on this tragic situation.
  Perhaps because Taizi, who is chasing dreams and longing for success, puts too much emphasis on her own ideas, the sense of burden and heaviness brought by her family (the imprisonment of her lover, the death of her child) made her see no hope in Dalian. In the future, when Yasuko compared the difference in literary creation between herself and the female writer Fumiko Hayashi, she also admitted that once she fell in love, it was like being in shackles, and she had to stay away from writing. That transcends tragic reality. Therefore, Yasuko, who was entangled in depression, finally gave up accompanying her lover Yamamoto to continue fighting in a foreign country, and chose to return to Japan alone to live a relatively comfortable life.
  After returning to Japan, Yasuko wrote an essay describing laborers and submitted it to “Literary Front”, but it was not adopted. The tenacious Yasuko was not discouraged, and continued to pursue his dream of being a writer. During this period, she got acquainted with famous poets Shisanro Ono, Kyojiro Ogiwara, and female writer Lin Fumiko who were also obsessed with literary writing. This period of life is low.
  In terms of love, Taizi, who abandoned her husband, had lived with many men successively, and she also reflected on this in the future. For example, the protagonist Keiko she portrayed in the short story “Ghost Mother God” is a woman with animal-like vitality who “tastes no matter whether it is poisonous or medicinal herbs within the range allowed by the rope she is tied to, and strives to grow.” “. Taizi’s self-destructive love attitude can also be said to be a strong and greedy desire to grow, and her resistance to the so-called “virginity” is also based on this rich emotional experience.
  In 1926, Yasuko published the short story “Mocking” (the work was later selected as a reward novel by “Osaka Asahi Shimbun”); after that, he joined the literary and artistic team of proletarian writers and became a member of the Workers, Peasants and Artists Union; Like-minded proletarian writer Jinji Kobori got married, and Jinji Kobori took good care of Yasuko in life, and Yasuko officially had his first family. This year, she was 22 years old.
  In the same year, Yasuko published “In the Free Ward”. This excellent work based on her own experience made her widely recognized as a proletarian writer, and she became a powerful newcomer in proletarian literature, and she has been active in Japanese literary circles ever since. This masterpiece mainly describes the story of a woman in labor who was arrested together with her husband who was engaged in a strike struggle. Obviously, this is very similar to Yasuko’s own experience. The work vividly describes the gloomy, ugly and dirty scene in the free ward, and Yasuko’s keen sense and fierce writing style permeate the whole book. Especially at the beginning of the article, the scene where “I” who returned to the ward stumbled on the stairs in the basement and was unable to get up from the wet and cold concrete floor showed the author’s unique “feeling description”. This is inseparable from the fact that Yasuko was influenced by the realistic style of the Aloram school tanka and the realism of Shiga Naoya. In addition, Yasuko also wrote novels such as “Laying the Train”, “Beating” and “Night Breeze” during this period.

  Yasuko saw hope in proletarian literature and also reaped the joy of success. He began to further study the works of Marx, Engels, Bukharin and others, and continued on the road of proletarian writers. During this period, Yasuko also got acquainted with members of the Japan Proletarian Art Alliance, such as Aono Kikikichi, Hayama Yoshiki, and Nakano Shigeharu. When the alliance split, Yasuko, Aono, Hayama and others formed the Workers and Peasants Artists Alliance to continue her vigorous creation. Activity. In 1930, Yasuko withdrew from the Union of Workers and Peasants Artists and created independently as a proletarian writer.
  Yasuko’s body was overwhelmed by years of hard-working writing. In 1933, Yasuko suffered from asthma due to overwork, but she did not give up writing because of this. Started living apart from her husband Kobori for 12 years. During this period, she created “Cherry Blossom”, “Someone and His Wife”, “Short Overcoat” and “Such a Woman” after World War II with the theme of criticizing fascism.
  At the end of 1937, Yasuko was arrested for the “People’s Front” incident and lived in the detention center for 8 months. The harsh environment caused Taizi, who was overdrawn by writing, to suffer from pleurisy and peritonitis, and was released due to the exacerbation of his condition. Under the careful care of her husband Kobori, Yasuko finally survived the danger, and since then she has been obsessed with classical literature.
  After Japan’s defeat, Yasuko returned to Japan’s proletarian literary circles, participated in a progressive literary group “New Japanese Literature Association” in the early postwar period, and was later elected as a member of the Central Committee of the “New Japanese Literature Association”. However, Yasuko, who returned to the literary world, was dissatisfied with the intact reconstruction movement of the pre-war Nap faction in the Japanese proletarian literary movement. She believes that the literary movement in the new era should start with criticizing and reflecting on the writer’s mental journey to reconstruct literature, and this idea does not coincide with the mainstream of the proletarian literary movement at that time. The diligent Yasuko was not depressed because of this. She actively wrote a series of autobiographical works related to proletarian literature, mainly based on real life experiences such as reporting during wartime, being in prison, and fighting against diseases, such as “One Person “Walking”, “Winter Story”, “Such a Woman”, “I Live”, etc., all show Yasuko’s strong desire to live and the eulogy of strong vitality. Yasuko’s literary qualifications have been fully demonstrated, among which “Such a Woman” won the first Japanese female literary scholar award.

Hayashi Fumiko

  However, starting in 1950, Yasuko suddenly turned to an anti-communist stance, quit the “New Japanese Literature Association”, and later became a probationary member of the Social Democratic Party, and also joined the Japanese conservative faction’s speech group. Therefore, Yasuko after the war is also known as the representative writer who turned to literature. As for why Yasuko changed from a supporter of proletarian literature to a female writer who held an anti-communist stance, there are different opinions, but what is certain is that the concept of proletarian literature that Yasuko understood was inconsistent with the mainstream of the Japanese proletarian literature movement at that time. It has been around for a long time.
  Another notable change of Yasuko after World War II is that he often participated in international activities and conferences. In 1952, Yasuko participated in the World Writers Conference held in Nice, France. After that, she also visited Germany, South Korea, the Philippines, Norway and other countries. At the same time, she participated in many speeches and conferences in overseas countries as a Japanese writer. A series of international activities have greatly enhanced Taizi’s popularity, which is also a reward for her unremitting efforts to pursue her dreams.
  Taizi, who has achieved great success in her career, is very unsatisfactory in marriage and love. Due to the long-term struggle with the disease and the constant attention to her own writing, the relationship between Yasuko and Kobori, who took good care of her, gradually faded. Coupled with the shift in her political stance in 1950, she gradually became out of step with Kobori in her career. In 1954, Yasuko finally found out that there was an illegitimate child between Xiaobori and her nanny. At this time, she was faced with a difficult choice. Should she stay or stay in her 27-year marriage? In the end, the resolute Yasuko divorced Kobori under the eyes of everyone, and ended her married life completely. Later, Yasuko wrote novels such as “Flowers of the Desert” and “No Hair”, all of which are autobiographical works, in which there are many words of reflection on his emotional life throughout his life, which left a deep impression on readers.
  Yasuko, who ended her married life, did not live a happy life. On the contrary, she has been suffering from various diseases all the time, coupled with being too tired to concentrate on writing, she eventually suffered from cancer. Despite this, Yasuko, who has undergone breast cancer surgery, still fights against the disease unrelentingly and actively participates in various social activities, showing the tenacity and tenacity of women. The novel “Secret” is a rare masterpiece written when her marriage broke down and she was seriously ill. In 1968, she won the Seventh Women’s Literature Award in Japan. In 1972, Yasuko, who fought the disease to the last moment, passed away at the age of 67. Before her death, she also left her posthumous work “Miyamoto Yuriko”.
  Most of the people who attended Yasuko’s funeral were Yasuko’s literary partners, and the cemetery was chosen in her hometown, Suwa City, Nagano Prefecture. Based on Yasuko’s contribution to Japanese literature and Japanese society during his lifetime, he was awarded the Gift Award, the Prime Minister’s Award, and the Medal of Merit (used to commend individuals or groups who are enthusiastic about social welfare and public welfare donations). In 1973, according to Yasuko’s behest, the Yasuko Hirabayashi Literary Association established the Yasuko Hirabayashi Literary Award to honor those who have devoted their lives to literature but have not been taken seriously.
  Throughout Yasuko’s life, through her own struggles, she has grown from a poor peasant girl to a well-known writer. The tenacious struggle behind it and the efforts that are different from ordinary people are crucial.

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