Literature in Translation

And here I thought I had caught up with all my work

Excuse me while I prepare for next semester, even as I struggle to keep pace with this semester. I will be teaching J-Lit in Translation, as I always do, and am considering adding a few new books, so I will be listing books that I might consider. Just think of this post as me talking to myself. But please feel free to comment on any of the books you have already read, or if you have an suggestions.

The class is a survey course, so the books should be basic and representative of the author, and the authors should be representative of J-Lit. So that should narrow it down to, say, 40 poets and authors? But I only have 15 weeks.

Early Modern

Until recently, I have had students by an Early Modern anthology put out by Columbia University Press. The selection is wide and varied, and the book is relatively inexpensive given its breadth. But I think there might be too much variety. I would rather have more samples of Basho–at least one entire travel journal and maybe even a complete haikai series–and more selections by Saikaku. There is perhaps too much stuff that is not necessary for a survey course. So this year, I’ve decided to choose just two books and perhaps supplement them with some handouts.

  • Basho’s Journey: The Literary Prose of Matsuo Basho. Trans. Barnhill, State University of New York Press. #0-7914-6414-8
  • Saikaku. Popular fiction. I can’t figure out a book yet. Anyone have any suggestions?


  • Natsume Soseki, Kokoro. Trans. McClellan, Dover Publications. #0486451399
  • Akutagawa Ryunosuke, Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories, Trans. Rubin. Penguin Classics. #0143039849

Mid-20th century

  • Tanizaki Jun’ichiro, Seven Tales, which include the novella “Portrait of Shunkin” and other strangely half-misogynistic, half-masochistic stories like “Tattoo”, “Aguri” and “Bridge of Dreams”. Vintage. #0679761071
  • Kawabata Yasunari, Snow Country. “Izu Dancer” OR The Old Capital. Trans. Holman. Shoemaker & Hoard. #1593760329


  • Enchi Fumiko, The Waiting Years. Trans. Bester. Kodansha International. #477002889X
    Feminist tale… well, feminist for a woman writing in the 1950s. But its about a woman who has been abused all her life–husband cheats on her, even brings his mistress home to live with them–but finally gets her revenge when she… well, I won’t spoil it for you.
  • Mishima Yukio. “The Boy Who Wrote Poetry”, Confessions of a Mask. Peter Owen Ltd. #0720610311
    Both of these tell the story of the Mishima everyone seems to forget about, unless you’re gay. Confessions is semi-autobiographical, describing Mishima’s own struggles to somehow capture masculinity, while realizing that he is unable to deny his attraction to day laborers and a certain classmate in an all boy school.


  • Abe Kobo, The Boxman; film Face of Another. I think most people are famliar with Woman in the Dunes, which is okay, I guess, as a reflection of the loss of identity through corporate society. But Abe does a better job of the loss of identity and isolation in the modern world in The Boxman–the main character literally lives in his box–no, no, no, he isn’t homeless, he actually wears it 24/7! And The Face of Another deals with a man who loses his face in a chemical (modern) accident, but creates a new one with a newly invented material (modern, again) so he can eventually seduce his wife as a stranger. Admit it. You wanna read both of them now, right?
  • Nakagami Kenji, The Cape. Trans. Zimmerman. Stone Bridge Press. #1933330430
    Violent, sexist and representative of Japan’s untouchable class, the burakumin.
  • Murakami Ryu, 69. Trans. McCarthy. Kodansha Amer Inc, #4770019513.
    I’d rather read Coin Locker Babies, but I think its too long.
  • Murakami Haruki, Elephan Vanishes. trans. Rubin. Vintage. #0679750533

This list is pretty threadbare… I will be adding and subtracting from this list so you can just ignore me while I work.

edoption #1045559

  • Ihara, Saikaku, 1642-1693. Five women who loved love. Translated by Wm. Theodore de Bary, with a background essay by Richard Lane, and the 17th-century illus. by Yoshida Hambei. 1956 PZ3 .I235 Fi
  • Ihara, Saikaku, 1642-1693. Great mirror of male love / Ihara Saikaku ; translated, with an introduction, by Paul Gordon Schalow. 1990 PL794.N37 E5 1990
  • [ 7 ] Ihara, Saikaku, 1642-1693. Life of an amorous man. Translated by Kengi Hamada. Illus. by Masakazu Kuwata. 1964 PZ3.I235 Lg
  • [ 9 ] Ihara, Saikaku, 1642-1693. Tales of Japanese justice / by Ihara Saikaku ; translated by Thomas M. Kondo, Alfred H. Marks. 1980 DS 21 .A83 no.24
  • [ 10 ] Ihara, Saikaku, 1642-1693. This scheming world. Translated by Masanori Takatsuka and David C. Stubbs. GW 1965 PL898.I38 S3
  • [ 11 ] Ihara, Saikaku, 1642-1693. Worldly mental calculations : an annotated translation of Ihara Saikaku’s Seken munezanyo / by Ben Befu. — 1976 PL 794 .S413 1976

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