Authentic vs. Inauthentic Debate: Kōga Saburō on Shinseinen

Kōga Saburō

The authentic detective fiction debates were triggered by one of the foundational writers in the early years of Shinseinen: Kōga Saburō 甲賀三郎 (1893-1945), who was among a few prewar writers came out of scientific backgrounds. Kōga considers the terms Hirabayashi proposed—healthy and unhealthy—to imply a value judgment, and thus coined a relatively neutral set of words: authentic (honkaku 本格) and inauthentic (henkaku 変格). The scholar Saito Satomi argues that in this way Kōga changed the dichotomy slightly from the issue of content with that of form, and his formal classifications were to be challenged by critics who defended the content as the particularity of Japanese culture. Kōga’s criticism of the definition of the Japanese term of detective fiction—tantei shōsetsu—begins in his essay in Shinseinen, “Baiuki no nōto kara” (「梅雨期のノートから」; “From a Note in the Rainy Season,” 1934). In this short essay, he claims that Japanese writers who are labeled as detective fiction writers do not really write “true” detective fiction. Detective fiction has its own merit that is different from “literature.” He argued that it is fatal for the development of the genre if those stories are categorized as such only because they are written by writers who are labeled as detective fiction writers for the purposes of general marketing. (Saito, 71-72)
*You can read Kōga’s fictional works here (full text in Japanese).

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