Friday, August 16, 2019

Ricky W. Law's "Transnational Nazism"

Ricky W. Law is Associate Professor of History at Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania. He has received grants and fellowships from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Japan Foundation, and the Royster Society of Fellows. In 2013, he received the Dean's Distinguished Dissertation Award at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill where he earned his Ph.D., and the Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize of the Friends of the German Historical Institute.

Law applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Transnational Nazism: Ideology and Culture in German-Japanese Relations, 1919-1936, and reported the following:
From page 99:
… Japan’s perception of Germany. What a people invests in the human resources, time, and money to render from a foreign language says a lot about what it prioritizes as worthwhile from another nation. So the aggregate of translated works is one civilization’s evaluation of another. Seen from this perspective, interwar Japan esteemed Germany highly and broadly. It even imported works on obscure topics such as procedures for transporting corpses by rail or regulations governing horseracing. Where appropriate, this chapter analyzes translated volumes collectively as a gauge of what information from Germany piqued Japanese interest.

The chapter concentrates primarily on the few score books on current affairs, politics, culture, economy, and contemporary history. Their genres include monographs, biographies, travelogues, memoirs, and encyclopedic anthologies. Like pamphlets and lectures, these works purported to relay facts. Unlike speeches and booklets, nonfiction did not operate within such thin profit margins or tight publication schedules. The quick turnaround of pamphlets enabled, even demanded, responses to breaking news, such as the commentaries chiming in within days of the Anti-Comintern Pact. But book authors and editors could use the extra time and pages to incorporate in-depth analyses and wider contexts. The more generous profit and time margins also allowed books to indulge in themes deemed less pressing or practical than those in pamphlets. Information in books was meant to last far longer, like the paper it was printed on. Hardcovers were sold with a sturdy sheath for preserving the volume inside for years and even decades. Book writers should have felt less pressure than pamphleteers to sensationalize issues because their readers were probably more educated and committed in time and money than consumers of pulpy booklets. Whereas many pamphlets were adorned with graphics and slogans to boost sales, most books, especially hardcovers with a brown cardboard shell, were designed to be judged not by their covers but their contents.

The depictions of Germany in interwar Japanese nonfiction fall into two phases. In the first, spanning the 1920s, authors and translators explored a wide range of topics that reflected the relatively open, liberal Weimar and Taisho zeitgeists. Early publications dwelling on the postwar gloom soon gave way to those that marveled at Germany’s recovery in the mid-decade, though opinion makers could not agree what a resurgent Germany should look like. But just as the revival was accepted as a…
Page 99 gives a useful snapshot of the scope of the book, especially the first half, on the interwar Japanese media’s reception of Germany. Because of the distance between the two countries, Japanese and Germans learned about each other mostly through the mass media rather than experiences. The book analyzes German-Japanese mutual depictions in the media to explain the cultural context of Tokyo and Berlin’s political rapprochement in 1936. It argues that in the early 1930s an ideological outlook, transnational Nazism, enticed some Japanese to support Hitler and Nazism, and convinced some Germans to accommodate Japan in the Nazi worldview.

The page belongs to the beginning of Chapter 3, on Germany in Japanese nonfiction publications. It describes how they differed from other media categories and how their characteristics influenced or were influenced by transnational Nazism. Interwar Japan eagerly imported knowledge from Germany in translations and books written by Japanese authors. In the 1920s, such works tended to be apolitical and aimed to acquaint readers with a Germany transformed by World War I and revolution. But with the rise of Hitler and his movement in the early 1930s, Japanese nonfiction on Germany took on a partisan tone. Several writers emerged to praise Nazism and to advocate Japan approaching the Third Reich. The first Hitler biography – with several to follow – was published in this period. Transnational Nazism even affected the visual appearance of books: pro-Nazi works in Japan often stood out for their graphic, colorful covers and easy, simplistic language. Beyond nonfiction, similar transformations took place among Japanese newspapers, lectures and pamphlets, and language textbooks.
Learn more about Transnational Nazism at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue