The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories

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The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories

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Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 17, 2012, 5:07 am

I first came to own this book back in college when I had to purchase it for one of my Japanese studies classes. And for all too long I've been recommending this book to new recruits to the world of Japanese literature as a means of sampling some of the great writers that have come out of Japan. Yet, despite having read many of the authors contained within the pages of this book, I must admit I've read barely a handful of the stories within. Perhaps this is due to my general (biased?) disinterest in short stories and yet, every time I take the book off the shelf and flip through the table of contents I immediately start to salivate at the thought of reading all the works provided. The number of times I have placed this book on the coffee table, next to my bed, left in the car, with the intent of reading what lies within and yet, always, after a few months it has returned to its slot on the shelf.

But instead of feeling guilty at this -- for it is an anthology after all --, I have decided to dedicate a thread to this collection of short stories. Hopefully as time passes by, I'll post my thoughts on a short story or two and perhaps I'll read this anthology this year or maybe I won't read the next short story for another few years, at least I'll have a place where I've marked what I have read and perhaps add additional thoughts that can compliment my other thread devoted to Japanese literature.

In any case, the intention is there.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 26, 2013, 9:35 pm

The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories

1) Mori Ogai : Sansho the Steward
2) Natsume Soseki : The Third Night
3) Kunikida Doppo : The Bonfire
4) Higuchi Ichiyo : Separate Ways
5) Nagai Kafu : The Peony Garden
6) Shiga Naoya : Night Fires
7) Tanizaki Junichiro : Aguri
8) Satomi Ton : Blowfish
9) Okamoto Kanoko : Portrait of an Old Geisha
10) Akutagawa Ryunosuke : In a Grove
11) Miyazawa Kenji : The Bears of Nametoko
12) Yokomitsu Riichi : Spring Riding in a Carriage
13) Ibuse Masuji : Carp
14) Kawabata Yasunari : The Izu Dancer
15) Kajii Motojiro : Lemon
16) Hayashi Fumiko : The Accordion and the Fish Town
17) Enchi Fumiko : The Flower-Eating Crone
18) Hirabayashi Taiko : Blind Chinese Soldiers
19) Sakaguchi Ango : In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom
20) Inoue Yasushi : Passage to Fudaraku
21) Dazai Osamu : Merry Christmas
22) Nakajima Atsushi : The Expert
23) Kojima Nobuo : The Rifle
24) Endo Shusaku : Unzen
25) Abe Kobo : The Bet
26) Yoshiyuki Junnosuke : Three Policemen
27) Mishima Yukio : Onnagata
28) Kono Taeko : Toddler-hunting
29) Mukoda Kuniko : Mr. Carp
30) Kaiko Takeshi : The Duel
31) Oe Kenzaburo : Prize Stock
32) Tsushima Yuko : A Very Strange, Enchanted Boy
33) Murakami Haruki : The Elephant Vanishes
34) Shimada Masahiko : Desert Dolphin
35) Yoshimoto Banana : Dreaming of Kimchee

toukokuu 4, 2012, 11:54 pm

I don't own this book but now that I see the table of contents I think I should. What a superb selection! I am really impressed by the breadth and variety of authors chosen; the inclusion of Okamoto Kanoko and Kono Taeko makes me especially happy. I do wonder a bit at the lack of anything by Kyōka Izumi. Is this an oversight or was there a time limit of some kind imposed on the collection (nothing before X date, for instance)? Anyway, I look forward to reading your thoughts on the stories as you make your way (someday, sometime) through them.

toukokuu 5, 2012, 5:12 am

I hesitate to do so myself, because I don't know the authors or have the book, but the contributors should be added as other authors, probably contributors, to the book under Add Other Authors.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 5, 2012, 5:20 am

I bought it on based on your recommendation with sole intent of reading immediately upon receipt. So far I've made it to the 1st page of the introduction. I call it pacing myself. I also live in the delusion world in which all the books in the to read pile will actually be read, and I can then start on the ones in my wishlists, never mind the fact that few from the latter make it into former despite my best efforts to keep the separated.

toukokuu 5, 2012, 6:19 pm

I read this wonderful collection over the holidays after receiving it for Christmas from my brother and his wife, who is from Kyoto. For anyone who wants to sample the modern era of Japanese fiction, this collection is marvelous. I am so grateful to have been introduced to so many Japanese authors that I would not otherwise have known about. After reading this collection I now have some new favorites, such as Shiga Naoya. I am now on the hunt for additional works in English translation by some of the lesser known (that is, lesser known to me) authors that intrigued me.

I should also mention that the commentary was thought-provoking and enhanced my reading of the stories generally. The commentator does a great job laying out how the preoccupations of each successive generation of Japanese authors are reflected in their stories.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 23, 2012, 5:39 pm

His introduction is great indeed. He has an interesting way of separating the short stories he chose into categories or 'generations' as he calls it. Whether it be the trail-blazers, the settlers, the wanderers, the survivors followed by the entertainers. It all makes great sense against the backdrop of Japanese history.

The last paragraph of his introductions leads to explaining why he chose what he chose:
No one, I have learned, has a monopoly on literary sensibility. The 'objective' pronouncements of experts are inevitably shaped by personal likes and dislikes and the tides of academic discourse, while students often come up with insights that elude their teachers. This anthology is no exception to the rule. I have tried to provide a cross-section of modern stories, selecting what seems to me to be the best works by the best translators, and avoiding any overlap with existing anthologies. There have been many writers I wanted to include but couldn't, while popular forms like historical romance and detective fiction have been almost entirely omitted. Treat this anthology, then not as the last word but as a first step into a living tradition which you can appreciate, and interpret, on your own.

I know that myself and even my Japanese boyfriend who is an avid reader are lost as to who some of these authors are so it's great to see the eclectic choice. And with all things one cannot include everything.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 23, 2012, 6:32 pm

13) Ibuse Masuji (1898-1994): Carp

At a very short four pages, Carp is a very simple tale. The narrator is given a white carp from his friend Nampachi Aoki which he promises to never kill. The carp, however, proves to be more of a burden for the narrator and even Aoki can sense that his friend is taking care of it more out of a feeling of obligation than joy. Nevertheless the narrator decides to keeps to his promise. But it is only after the demise of his friend that he can truly sees the white carp for its beauty as tears run from down his face.

Books by Ibuse Masuji that I have read:
Black Rain

The author's style is very recognizable and once again John Bester does a great job in translating Ibuse's calm style. Apparently, Aoki Nampachi was a real person, a fellow student at Waseda University, and was both a mentor and a general influence on Ibuse's work. It would seem the death of his friend was a source of inspiration in allowing him to describe what loneliness feels like, something very observable in Black Rain.

kesäkuu 29, 2012, 1:55 am

It is a nice collection. The translations are good too.

kesäkuu 29, 2012, 2:48 am

signature103 -
Do you have a thread where you keep track of which books you read?

kesäkuu 29, 2012, 4:09 am

I haven't, but I will. There some in my collection which I haven't read yet.

kesäkuu 29, 2012, 5:37 am

Here is my list of Japanese Literature books:

Any reason why you wanted to know?

kesäkuu 29, 2012, 2:12 pm

I just thought that if you had a thread it would be interesting to see what you've been reading lately and your thoughts so as to maybe pick up some ideas for some new books.

kesäkuu 29, 2012, 6:11 pm

I wish I had the time right now.

The last piece of fiction I read was two months ago. It happened to be Tanizaki Jun'ichiro's The Key which I had found in a secondhand bookstore.

The last book before that was may be three years ago. I read mostly research material right now.

So I would be not much of a contributor to the interesting conversations happening here though I would love to take part again.

Thanks for asking. I will try though.

marraskuu 26, 2013, 9:19 pm

8) Satomi Ton (1888-1983): Blowfish

I went from a carp to a blowfish and stayed at the four page mark for this story. And it's a simple story: a kabuki star is traveling, falls ill, decides to eat some blowfish that turns out to be tainted and realizes he's dying. There isn't some deep underlying message to take away from this story. It does show certain glimpses into the lifestyle of a kabuki artist but there really is no revelation.

In fact, I had to look at who the author was (I'm unfamiliar with him) to really understand what it was I had just read. Immediately, from his wikipedia, you read that "Satomi Ton is the pen-name for a Japanese author known for the craftsmanship of his dialogue and command of the Japanese language". As there was hardly any dialogue and since I was reading this book in translation, I can't really make a comment on either of these two things.

Wikipedia continues to tell me that he "strove to remain aloof from any particular literary clique or political school throughout his career. He was a prolific author known for his autobiographical works and promotion of purely literary values." So now I know I'm going to be looking for tradition in his works as well as glimpses into the Japanese life. Now I understand what I've just read.

However, I think I would have preferred reading this work first:
"In the West he is largely known for Tsubaki ("Camellia"), a disturbing short story written after the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923, which came a few months after the suicide of his brother Takeo Arishima."

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 26, 2013, 9:46 pm

I'm going to go ahead and strike these two off my list as I've already read them and have already commented on them before in other threads.

10) Akutagawa Ryunosuke (1892-1927): In a Grove

This one I can't say how many times I've read it. I don't think you can go through an education in Japanese or Japanese culture without reading this in almost every class. Because it is that influential a work because it is so powerful and so remarkable a piece of work. In fact, I wouldn't mind reading it again. I've even seen the movie several times. So this is just a must-read. And if you're going to read this, you also must read his other, even more influential and even more powerful work, Rashomon. Not even going to tell you what they're about!

31) Oe Kenzaburo (1935 - ): Prize Stock

This was also a remarkable story but I admit that it initially took a little time to settle but I feel that is fairly typical of Oe. He handles some tough topics that aren't the easiest to digest and that require some contemplation. This was a topic I haven't ever seen tackled in Japanese literature (if you know, let me know!) which was probably what was so shocking and in your face for me.

So what is it about? It talks about the reaction of a Japanese village to a black American soldier whose plane has crashed and of which he is the sole survivor. More specifically it speaks of a boy's reaction to the soldier's impressive presence. The narrative is remarkable but the story is shocking.

Definitely recommended.

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