Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Matsuo Basho’s Oku no Hosomichi


  • Yasue Arimitsu



POW camp, The Burma-Thailand railway, Matsuo Basho’s haiku poems


This paper investigates Australian author Richard Flanagan’s novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, and attempts to clarify the reason why Flanagan chose this title, which is linked to the travel writings of the Japanese author Matsuo Basho, for his novel. The novel focuses on the central character’s prisoner of war experience on the Thai-Burma Death Railway during World War II, and depicts the POW camp as well as cruel Japanese behaviour and atrocities in a realistic way. The work seems to provide a postcolonial framework in the sense that there is a colonial and postcolonial relationship between the colonizer, and the colonized. However, in this novel, the colonizer is Eastern, and the colonized is Western, and this fact reverses postcolonial theory which postulates a structure in which the colonizer is usually considered as Western and the colonized, Eastern. Postcolonial theory, thus, cannot be applied in this novel, which attempts to fuse the two opposites, the Western view and the Eastern view, through the work of the Japanese poet. As a result, Flanagan, in writing The Narrow Road to the Deep North, goes beyond being a postcolonial writer to become a writer in a globalizing age.