Some books in English trans.

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Some books in English trans.

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Aug 15, 2006, 7:46 pm

Was just talking about list of books at the Japanese Culture group and whipped out this old list of modern authors I made and thought I should share it here too:

Mori Ogai 1862-1922
Futabatei Shimei 1864-1909
Masaoka Shiki 1867-1902
Natsume Soseki 1867-1916
Koda Rohan 1867-1947
Higuchi Ichiyo 1872-1896
Shimazaki Toson 1872-1943
Arishima Takeo 1878-1923
Nagai Kafu 1879-1959
Santoka 1882-1940
Takamura Kotaro 1883-1956
Shiga Naoya 1883-1971
Ishikawa Takuboku 1886-1912
Hagiwara Sakutaro 1886-1942
Tanizaki Jun'ichiro 1886-1965
Akutagawa Ryunosuke 1892-1927
Miyazawa Kenji 1896-1933
Yokumitsu Riichi 1898-1947
Ibuse Masuji 1898-1993
Kawabata Yasunari 1899-1972
Kobayashi Takiji 1903-1933
Inoue Yasushi 1907-1991
Dasai Osamu 1909-1948
Ooka Shohei 1909-1988
Endo Shusaku 1923-1996
Abe Kobo 1924-1993
Mishima Yukio 1925-1970
Ariyoshi Sawako 1931-1984
Oe Kenzaburo 1935-

Not surprizingly some books and authors are too obscure to be listed in Amazon. There are English translations out there for all these authors.

Aug 20, 2006, 12:13 am

Thanks for posting the list.

Any suggestions for a few specific books to try?

Aug 23, 2006, 7:15 am

Soseki's i am a cat is always a good place to start. For somthing more serious try his kokoro. For something more contemporary try Yoshimoto Banana. Good luck.

Aug 23, 2006, 8:37 am

signature103, thanks for the suggestions.

I've already read a couple of books by Banana Yoshimoto and do like her style of writing. One was Lizard, and the other was
Asleep which I now have circulating as a bookray on BookCrossing.

Edited: Aug 23, 2006, 8:59 am

Thanks for that list. I see a few familiar names but many that I am not familiar with.

Some favorites I recommend are A Personal Matter by Oe Kenzaburo, The Woman in the Dunes by Abe Kobo, and The House of the Sleeping Beauties by Kawabata Yasunari.

Edited: Aug 23, 2006, 7:38 pm

readingmachine, I absolutely LOVED The Woman in the Dunes. What a strange and fascinating story that was!
For others, that story is about an entymologist who becomes lost in the desert. Now that's my oversimplification of a wonderful story!!! :-)

I'll look for the other two you mentioned. An excellent story by Kenzaburo Oe (I never know which name to put first) was Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids. Very sad, but captivating nonetheless. It's about a group of teenagers who were abandoned in a small town in war-time Japan. Read it, if you haven't yet.

I'm so glad there are others around who love these English translations of Japanese novels as much as I do.

Aug 23, 2006, 7:48 pm

I am beginning to think that almost everything Oe Kenzaburo has written is tinged with deep sadness. He is not the author to read when you are feeling down. But his books are worth investigating.

Aug 23, 2006, 8:00 pm


Oooooooh! I just discovered I have A Personal Matter in my possession!!! I also have Somersault. I just started collecting Oe books after I read Nip the Buds; Shoot the Kids. Now I just have to find the time to read them...

Sad books don't bother me that much. I tend to read more than one book at a time, so one particular book will not affect my mood. I do, however, start to look into an author's life if I see that a thread of sadness runs through all of a particular author's writings. I begin to wonder why.

Aug 24, 2006, 8:42 am

A Personal Matter is the first novel by Oe that I read. I don't have the book handy, but what got my attention immediately were the strange similes (at least I found them strange) he employs. And when I say I found them strange, that is not meant as a criticism. They are wonderfully strange.

Edited: Sep 10, 2006, 7:36 am

I haven't read many books by Japanese writers, but I really liked Yoshimoto Banana's Kitchen. A lot of Japanese books tend to be sad and although this one was sad in many respects, in a very subtle way it was also refreshingly optimistic.

I also enjoyed Akutagawa's Rashomon and Kawabata's The Izu Dancer. Soseki's Kokoro was another nice book.

One writer I simply can't read, though, is Murakami Ryu. I somehow managed to finish Almost Transparent Blue but, honestly, I wish I hadn't read it. :(

P.S. I just remembered, Mori Ogai's Wild Goose is another book I would recommend.

Oct 13, 2006, 10:29 am

We’re doing having a book discussion about Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen in the Asian Fiction & Non-Fiction Group. We’re currently discussing style, and discussing whether or not the translation of Japanese to English presents a different tone, or is it a case of the translator or the authors words itself. We were curious to see, and have the opinions of readers who’ve read it in the original Japanese, and perhaps have also read it, or other works by her in the English translation who are fluent in Japanese. Please come over, and let us know your thoughts on this.


Oct 17, 2006, 4:17 pm

After the Banquet by Mishima is one of my favorites. I love his writing. I've also read Forbidden Colors, also very good. His novel are short and the translations (at least the ones I've experienced) are easy to read, yet remain evocative.

13Allensabode First Message
Edited: Apr 8, 2007, 9:56 pm

If you want a more recent author, the short novel The stones cry out by Hikaru Okuizumi won the akutagawa short story award in Japan and has been translated. It is a marvelous book, very quiet, and tracks the main character through his life after the war.

I'm surprised Haruki Murakami hasn't been mentioned yet. He is readily available in translation.

For me, however, Kawabata is fantastic - especially his Palm of the Hand stories. Another one of his works, The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa, was recently translated. I haven't read it yet although I have it. Newly translated Kawabata is a rare treat, and I am still savoring the opportunity.

Apr 7, 2007, 11:37 pm

Allensabode, message 13: thanks so much for posting on The Stones Cry Out. I'd never heard of this novel nor even this author before but based on your recommendation and the information I found on Amazon and elsewhere, I plan to order this very soon.

So glad to see another fan of Kawabata! (He's perhaps my favorite Japanese writer.) I haven't yet read The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa either but have it on my wishlist. Maybe this mention of it is the push I need to order it ASAP!

Apr 8, 2007, 10:02 pm

Thanks Marietherese, message 14: I don't think you will be disappointed by the novel. I might add that Akutagawa is very enjoyable as well. He is often compared to Edgar Allan Poe, and for good reason.

I might mention, while I haven't read it, The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa is a bit different from other Kawabata novels. This is one of his early works when he was with a group called the Neo-Sensualists. If I remember correctly he was influenced by James Joyce and this novel has a "stream of conciousness" quality to it.

Edited: Apr 9, 2007, 2:18 am

Allensabode, I think I vaguely remember reading that The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa was early Kawabata and reflected his interest in and enthusiasm for modernist literature. It should be interesting to compare this book to his best known, already translated, early works, such as The Izu Dancer.

I'm very familiar with Akutagawa. He was indeed a fine writer gifted with an immense talent for vivid description and a dark, sometimes even sadistic, imagination. I first read him in my impressionable teens and recall having terrible nightmares for weeks after reading Hell Screen.

I recently read Kanehara Hitomi's brief novel Snakes and Earrings, which won the Akutagawa Prize a few years ago (2004? 2005?) While I felt it was bit slight and underdeveloped, the subject matter (piercing, tattoos, kinky, violent sexuality, and murder) did seem like precisely the sort of thing Akutagawa himself might be writing about were he alive today.

Sep 27, 2007, 5:23 pm

Over five months later the thread sputters anew:

I've still got another 40 miles of deep mud before I conclude The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa. I understand it was only recently translated, 2005. I read 4 or 5 pages of the 43 page intro by Donald Richie, but I weary of too much back-story, and like even less the academic's fondness for telling specific details of the book with their own biases and perspective before I've encountered it myself.

So I jumped in. I found it amazingly discursive, the characters names are frequently confusing. the narrator himself is endlessly confusing characters. There are oddball sections, not clearly indicated, where we move about freely in time. And, "dear reader", many other irritants and frustrations. Among other books I've read by Kawabata, I find his prose direct and bare but it flows beautifully. Not so here. He has these endless recitations of which building is next to which other building across from park by a store with a car next to a sweets stand--all of it devoid of any decent description. To no purpose. Just a survey. It's hard.

After about 120 pages of the book I'm slowing down more and more and it's become a burden I avoid. Sitting over there staring at me. Finallly I do the unthinkable and decide to ditch it to move to green pastures. So now, loving Donald Richie and Asakusa, which we've visited many times, I read the forward in total.

He points out that it is amazingly discursive, the characters names are frequently confusing. the narrator himself is endlessly confusing characters. There are oddball sections, etc. He also gives it historic context as MarieTherese indicates above: smack in the middle of his excited and soon to be discarded modernist period, and hot on the heels of his success with Izu Dancer. So he isn't compelled to coddle the public. It was serialized in a newspaper which gained it a great deal of enthusiasm apparently. If I could only read a chapter or "chapterette" each few days, it might hold vastly more interest for me as well. Addressing it as a novel? Not so much.

Now validated in my perspective of the book, and understanding that I'm not *supposed* to be able to keep the characters straight, I can now finish the book without feeling like I'm missing whatever wasn't there to begin with.

And so forth.

-- Gerry

Mar 3, 2008, 3:02 am

Here's what I had to say about Kawabata's The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa:

Mar 3, 2008, 1:42 pm

dcozy's review is a good read.

Mar 7, 2008, 4:55 pm

I enjoyed reading the review, but then I'm a Japan, Japanese writing, Tokyo and Asakusa junkie. I think the sum of "Scarlet Gang" is now what it was then; confusing, opaque and difficult as a matter of express stylistic intent. But modernist/hip sometimes doesn't confound or frustrate with the same zazz for each changing generation.

I still think that if I flipped through the daily paper each day on a commute to work and got to a magical "literary" section where each day or two there was an installment of somebody's story or purported novel, I would have loved this thing. By comparison with the inexorable crawl of Hillary v. Obama, or street gang body-counts, many fragments of fiction take on great power.

Beyond that, when episodic fiction is encountered or delivered episodically it has a lot more value to me. Read a full book of Gary Larson cartoons to see how anemic the humor, potentially herculean, can become.

Searching within JapanTimes for other David Cozy articles I see you have quite a bit to say about Japanese lit (I assume). I'm greatly looking forward to strolling through it all!

-- Gerry

Mar 7, 2008, 11:51 pm


Hope you enjoy the other reviews. My brief is to write about books with a Japanese (or at least Asian) connection.

I used to write for the Asahi, too, but they've just canceled their books page because books are, like, so twentieth century--or something.


Jun 4, 2008, 10:12 am

re#1: Thanks for sharing a very useful list.
re#18: I read The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa about a year ago and struggled with it much the same as #17, but finally finished it and started to hit the 'pay-off' of understanding a bit better at the end. Wish I'd run across your review earlier! Your insights are very helpful. I will never walk through Asakusa without my imagination drifting back to Kawabata's book. By coincidence, I just finished The North China Lover by Marguerite Duras, which strikes me as having many similarities to The Scarlet Gang...

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