Modern Languages and Literatures, Department of


Date of this Version



Journal of Literature and Art Studies, ISSN 2159-5836 January 2012, Vol. 2, No. 1, 242-253


In her Renaissance Trilogy of Murder (1988), Shiono Nanami (塩野七生, 1937- ) rejuvenates the classical genre of historical crime fiction, dismantling a canonical outlook of late Renaissance Italy. As historiographer of Ancient Rome, the Italian Renaissance, and the Mediterranean naval epic, Shiono achieved literary stardom in Japan in the 1980s, and has been internationally known for her pragmatist approaches to history and contemporary politics. Her writing has reassessed established history from the non-Western and non-Christian viewpoints. Most notably, her magnum opus, Rōmajin no monogatari (Res GestaePopuli Romani—Tales of the Romans) (published 1992-2006) tirelessly describes the empire’s politics, beginning with the heyday of the nation and ending with its dissolution. Upon completion of the work, Shiono received the Grand Official Order of Merit in 2002 from the Italian government in recognition of her documentation of the empire. Shiono has lived in Italy since 1963, and continues to write in Japanese on Italian history and society. She has been considered one of today’s most prominent border-crossing authors from Japan (La Rocca, 2008, p. 97). ...This paper explores an intersection between history and fiction in Shiono’s work, focusing on what the process of fictionalization adds into the objective dimension of history. Given that any written history be a reflection of specific perspectives, seeing her historical fiction simply as an interpretation may be tautological and insufficient. Free from a framework of objective facts, Shiono ascribes her fictional stories to the genre of crime fiction, and by virtue of its socio-political implication, The Renaissance Trilogy of Murder situates 16th century Italy in today’s global contexts, particularly Japan’s international relation in mind.