Skip to main content

For Dignity, Justice, and Revolution

An Anthology of Japanese Proletarian Literature

For Dignity, Justice, and Revolution

An Anthology of Japanese Proletarian Literature

Fiction created by and for the working class emerged worldwide in the early twentieth century as a response to rapid modernization, dramatic inequality, and imperial expansion. In Japan, literary youth, men and women, sought to turn their imaginations and craft to tackling the ensuing injustices, with results that captured both middle-class and worker-farmer readers. This anthology is a landmark introduction to Japanese proletarian literature from that period.

Contextualized by introductory essays, forty expertly translated stories touch on topics like perilous factories, predatory bosses, ethnic discrimination, and the myriad indignities of poverty. Together, they show how even intensely personal issues form a pattern of oppression.  Fostering labor consciousness as part of an international leftist arts movement, these writers, lovers of literature, were also challenging the institution of modern literature itself. This anthology demonstrates the vitality of the “red decade” long buried in modern Japanese literary history.

488 pages | 10 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2015

Asian Studies: East Asia

Literature and Literary Criticism: Asian Languages


“The thread of thought underlying the stories in Field and Bowen-Struyk’s anthology is not an obsolete or vanished one, but is, as Edmund Wilson eloquently established in To the Finland Station, one of the fundamental components of our contemporary consciousness.”

Kyoto Journal

“Even among Anglo-American scholars, proletarian literature in Japan has been largely ignored, which makes this collection of prewar ‘red’ literature both timely and overdue. Any anthology risks becoming unwieldy, yet this one is lucidly structured around themes such as children, realism and imperialism. . . . The editors have also made the welcome decision to retain self-censored and suppressed passages.”

Japan Times

“A significant contribution to the body of English language scholarship and translation of Japanese proletarian literature. . . . This book goes a long way toward filling a gap of neglect in the study of proletarian literature. . . . Highly recommended.”


"This engaging and in-depth anthology provides the reader and scholar with access to more than the 'greatest hits' of proletarian literature that are currently available in translation, making it possible for the subject to play a larger role in Japanese literature classes."

Japan Studies

“Anyone wishing . . . to engage more deeply with Japan’s proletarian literary movement—to a large extent unknown in the West—should reach for [this] English-language volume. . . . With For Dignity, Justice, and Revolution, literature professor Heather Bowen-Struyk and professor emerita of Japanese studies Norma Field have offered a work depicting the full range of the genre.”

junge Welt

“An exceptionally welcome and valuable contribution to the body of translated works of Japanese fiction into English. . . . Carefully crafted ‘close’ translations, in a positive sense: the proletarian ‘feel’ of the original is rendered well.”

Journal of Japanese Studies

For Dignity, Justice, and Revolution is an activist anthology: savvy, vibrant, and engaging. It grabs you, the reader, by the lapels and addresses you directly, with a rare sense of urgency not found in other such collections. This volume is not just welcome; it is an essential guidebook for navigating twentieth-century Japan’s literary and political terrain.”

Edward Fowler, University of California, Irvine

For Dignity, Justice, and Revolution fills a major gap in our knowledge of the global movement to create a form for the expression of working people’s lived experience during the ‘red decade’ of the 1930s. This collection opens views onto the struggles of diseased prostitutes, telephone linemen, muslin weavers, fishmongers, farmers, and factory workers, as well as the debates swirling among leftist intellectuals about how to forge solidarity and shape consciousness among men, women, and children; urban and rural dwellers; colonialized Koreans; and former geishas. The editors have brought to light a history hidden by repression and neglect.”

Paula Rabinowitz, University of Minnesota

“The finely crafted translations of short fiction and criticism that compose this groundbreaking anthology underscore the crucial role proletarian writers played in the formation of modern Japanese literature. For Dignity, Justice, and Revolution demonstrates brilliantly how these writers critically engaged with the global proletarian movement as they sought to further the cause of class justice and anti-imperialist/antiwar struggle.”

Theodore Hughes, Columbia University

“Two generations ago Frank Motofuji’s translation of Kobayashi Takiji’s 1929 The Crab Cannery Ship introduced English readers to what was once the world’s most articulate left cultural project. Kobayashi experienced a 2008 best-selling boom in a Japan weary of two decades of economic decline, but Bowen-Struyk and Field note that scholars largely ‘ignore’ the genre. Now that has changed. These excellent translations of excellent writers make timely reading, as Marxism revives in the face of a current century that will be far different at its conclusion from today.”

John Treat, Yale University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


Chapter 1. The Personal Is the Political
1 Comrade Taguchi’s Sorrow
Kobayashi Takiji
2 Red
Nakamoto Takako
3 The Mother
Wakasugi Toriko
4 A Statement of My Views in Response to Mr. Masamune Hakucho
Aono Suekichi
5 A Chronology of My Life
Kobayashi Takiji

Chapter 2. Labor and Literature
6 The Prostitute
Hayama Yoshiki
7 Apples
Hayashi Fusao
8 Prayer
Sata Ineko
9 Natural Growth and Purposeful Consciousness
Aono Suekichi
10 Going on a Field Trip?
Nakamoto Takako

Chapter 3. The Question of Realism
11 March 15, 1928
Kobayashi Takiji
12 The Linesmen
Kataoka Teppei
13 The Path to Proletarian Realism
Kurahara Korehito
14 On the Tendency of Proletarian Works to Become Formulaic
Hirabayashi Taiko
15 Covering Over the Essence
Sata Ineko

Chapter 4. Children
16 Hell
Kaji Wataru
17 Death of a Cricket
Murayama Kazuko
18 Elephant and Mouse
Murayama Kazuko
19 Tetsu’s Story; Or, a Rope around Whose Neck?
Nakano Shigeharu
20 The Question of “Reality” and “Unreality” in Children’s Stories
Makimoto Kusuro

Chapter 5. Art as a Weapon
21 Leafleting
Sata Ineko
22 Letter
Kobayashi Takiji
23 Shawl
Tokunaga Sunao
24 The Bulletin Board and the Wall Story
Yi Tong-gyu
25 A Farmer among Farmers
Hosono Kojiro
26 To Qiqihar
Kuroshima Denji
27 A Day at the Factory
Nagano Kayo
28 Our Own Literature Course (1): A Guide to Writing Literary Reportage
Yamada Seizaburo
29 On Wall Stories and “Short” Short Stories: A New Approach to Proletarian Literature
Kobayashi Takiji
30 A Guide to Fiction Writing: How to Write Stories
Kobayashi Takiji
31 The Achievements of the Creative Writing Movement: An Assessment of Works to Date
Tokunaga Sunao

Chapter 6. Anti-Imperialism and Internationalism
32 Another Battlefront
Matsuda Tokiko
33 Hell of the Starving
Chang Hyok-chu
34 On Antiwar Literature
Kuroshima Denji

Chapter 7. Repression, Recantation, and Socialist Realism
35 Midnight Sun
Murayama Tomoyoshi
36 The Breast
Miyamoto Yuriko
37 Negative Realism: One Direction for Proletarian Literature
Kawaguchi Hiroshi
38 Proletarian Realism and “Socialist Realism”: A Study of Literary Method (1)
Moriyama Kei
39 Socialist Realism or XXX Realism?
Kim Tu-yong
40 Buds That Survive Winter
Miyamoto Yuriko



Modernist Studies Assocation: Modernist Studies Association--Edition, Anthology, or Essay Collection

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press