An Ethics of the Déraciné and A Philosophy of the Tourist

Table of Contents

To commemorate the publication of author Hiroyuki Itsuki’s book, The Age of the Déraciné (Déraciné no jidai), the author joined Russian literature scholar Mitsuyoshi Numano and critic Hiroki Azuma for a roundtable discussion at Genron Café. The discussion centered around Russia, the concept of the déraciné, and Azuma’s concept of the “tourist”.
To begin with, Numano points to the pioneering work of Itsuki, who has used Russia as a stage for entertainment beginning with his literary debut. Itsuki speaks of how he resists the idea of “literature” and instead orients himself toward an “one-time-only entertainment that fuses time periods.” His works are built upon his departures and experiences, which we might call “touristic.”
In his debut work, Farewell Moscow Outpost (Saraba Mosukuwa gurentai), Itsuki depicts stilyagi (стиляги) he encountered in real life who promoted Soviet counterculture. In his 1969 novel, The Flag of the Déraciné (Déraciné no hata), Itsuki uses his experience with the Prague Spring to express the distance between the déraciné and revolution.
The three then discuss Itsuki’s fascination with Russian literature. Following Japan’s defeat in World War II, Itsuki heard a beautiful chorus sung by cruel Soviet soldiers who had invaded Korea before repatriation. Azuma references the novel Shinran and notes that the topic of songs is at the root of Itsuki’s works.
At the same time, in Shinran, even the déraciné confront the issue of “roots”, in the form of family. Following up on this point, Itsuki expresses his interest in the concept of the “tourist”, who has no such roots. Tourism demolishes socio-economic filters that function in the mother country and enables a variety of thoughts resulting from being an outsider. Itsuki emphasizes the necessity of affirming an ethics of déraciné especially in the present day, with its abundance of déraciné such as refugees and nuclear disaster evacuees.
In the final part of the roundtable, following a discussion on tourism in medieval Japan, the discussion turns to the Russian word toská (тоска). The word means “melancholy,” but it also refers to “nostalgia.” Summing up the discussion, Azuma displays his understanding of the theme of Itsuki’s works as having a double meaning: “People cannot escape toská, so they must accept it.” The songs that carry this double meaning have pierced Itsuki from the experiences of his youth to the creation of Shinran.