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Lecture: Secrets and Lies in Aki Shimazaki’s Pentalogy
Venue: Room 1121, KK Leung Building, HKU
Date: 27 June 2007 (Wednesday)

The School of Modern Languages and Cultures of the University of Hong Kong is pleased to announce a lecture:


Dr. Peter Schulman
Associate Professor of French and International Studies, Old Dominon University, Norfolk, VA.

Date: June 27, 2007 (Wednesday)
Time: 10:30 am – 11:30 am
Venue: Room 1121, KK Leung Building, HKU

In Tsubaki, the first of Aki Shimazaki’s series of five novels, a Rashom-like pentalogy in which the same characters try to unravel the personal traumas of their lives right before the atom bomb hits the city that they have just moved to, Nagasaki, one of the main characters, Yukio, cries out: “Now is not the time to seek the truth, unity is what counts now." In that instance, he was defending a young Korean unjustly accused of theft. Could the same be said for the rest of Shimazaki’s novels?  Indeed, in Tsubame, for example, the narrator, a Korean immigrant living in suburban Tokyo must hide her identity during the war to escape persecution and murder, but continues her spiritual camouflage well after it when her family believes she is in fact Japanese. “I don’t speak to anyone about my true origins,”  she explains. “My son thinks, just as my husband once thought, that my mother and uncle died during the earthquake in 1923. Japan’s defeat and Korea’s independence did nothing to change Japanese attitudes tow Koreans living in Japan.” Her main character is a crypto-Korean living in war-torn Japan while Shimazaki herself is a Japanese woman living in Canada but writing in French. Shimazaki’s enigmatic Japanese titles to her books are indicative of her own idiosyncratic mise-en-abyme narratives in which there can be several layers of identity hidden within the frames of language (French for Shimazaki, Japanese for her Korean born characters living in Japan, and finally silence for the adulterous narrator of Hotaru).  How does French function as a unifying mirror for these many layers of identity that are hidden throughout her novels? Could an Asian-Quebecois public persona in a city as linguistically polarized as Montreal be a fitting depository for the secrets Shimazaki wishes to keep from her own Japanese past?  Shimazaki’s quasi-obsessive preoccupation with a single traumatic event viewed from many angles, and her elegant attempts to camouflage her secrets with enigmas taunt her readers with such questions.

About the Speaker:
Dr. Peter Schulman is Associate Professor of French and International Studies at Old Dominon University in Norfolk, VA. He is the author of “The Sunday of Fiction: The Modern French Eccentric”  (Purdue University Press, 2003) and, with Mischa Zabotin,  “Le Dernier Livre du Siecle” (Romillat editions, Paris) an investigation of the notion of "fin de siecle" through interviews with about 60 prominent French personalities in all walks of life. He has co-authored three edited volumes: “Rhine Crossings: France and Germany in Love and War” (SUNY Press, 2006); “Chasing Esther: Jewish Expressions of Cultural Difference” (Kol Katan Press/University of Haifa, 2006) and “The Marketing of Eros: Sexuality, Performance, and Consumer Culture” (Die Blaue Eule, Essen Germany, 2003).  He wrote the introduction to and notes for Wesleyan UP's “The Begum's Millions” (2005) and is currently translating, writing the notes and introduction for one of Verne's last books, “The Secret  of Wilhem Storitz”  for the University of Nebraska Press. He has also translated Georges Simenon's “The Thirteen Culprits” (Crippen and Landru Press, 2003) into English, Dorothy Salisbury “Davis's Where the Dark Streets Go”  (Rivages, 2001) into French and translates contemporary French detective fiction into English for Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. He also serves on the Board of Trustees for the North American Jules Verne Society.

For enquiry, please contact : Dr D.C. Meyer (2859 2020)

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