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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
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American Stories (Modern Asian Literature)

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ISBN13: 9780231117906
ISBN10: 0231117906
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Based on his sojourn from Japan to Washington State, Michigan, and New York City in the early years of the twentieth century, these stories — at last available in English — represent a classic account of turn-of-the-century America by one of the greatest Japanese writers of the modern era.

Synopsis:

Nagai Kafu is one of the greatest modern Japanese writers, but until now his classic collection, American Stories, based on his sojourn from Japan to Washington State, Michigan, and New York City in the early years of the twentieth century, has never been available in English. Here, with a detailed and insightful introduction, is an elegant translation of Kafu's perceptive and lyrical account.

Like de Tocqueville a century before, Kafu casts a fresh, keen eye on vibrant and varied America — world fairs, concert halls, and college campuses; saloons, the immigrant underclass, and red-light districts. Many of his vignettes involve encounters with fellow Japanese or Chinese immigrants, some of whom are poorly paid laborers facing daily discrimination. The stories paint a broad landscape of the challenges of American life for the poor, the foreign born, and the disaffected, peopled with crisp individual portraits that reveal the daily disappointments and occasional euphorias of modern life.

Translator Mitsuko Iriye's introduction provides important cultural and biographical background about Kafu's upbringing in rapidly modernizing Japan, as well as literary context for this collection. In the first story, Night Talk in a Cabin, three young men sailing from Japan to Seattle each reveal how poor prospects, shattered confidence, or a broken heart has driven him to seek a better life abroad. In Atop the Hill, the narrator meets a fellow Japanese expatriate at a small midwestern religious college, who slowly reveals his complex reasons for leaving behind his wife in Japan. Caught between the pleasures of America's cities and the stoicism of its small towns, he wonders if he can ever return home.

Kafu plays with the contradictions and complexities of early twentieth-century America, revealing the tawdry, poor, and mundane underside of New York's glamour in Ladies of the Night while celebrating the ingenuity, cosmopolitanism, and freedom of the American city in Two Days in Chicago. At once sensitive and witty, elegant and gritty, these stories provide a nuanced outsider's view of the United States and a perfect entrance into modern Japanese literature.

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Gregorio Roth, April 6, 2010 (view all comments by Gregorio Roth)
Kafu's book written in the early 1900's, is a sideways look at America from the eyes of a Japanese traveler. A reader today will probably be considered politically incorrect. There are points in the book that will make you say, "I don't think I would have said that!"



This is modern writing geared forward and armed with the strength that is America. His prose move forward like a locomotive engineered by Casey Jones; out amongst the open prairie, plowing over women, minorities, and a few prairie dogs not really getting the time to know the death count.

He progresses on a narrow gauge track through the scope of the United States. He takes a glimpse through his slanted window to look out amongst the scenery. You can tell that Kafu gets a sensual thrill from the scenery that he moves through. But the people he truly does not get to know. They are constructions that are flat and cutout.

Kafu saw that art without sexual tension had no meaning. His prose explore the American cat houses, and treats women as objects that he does not dare get close to. One can see the psychological delusions of the author who was laden with anti social sensibilities. At times the reader feels sad for the writer's lack of ability to connect to a human being.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Gregorio Roth, April 6, 2010 (view all comments by Gregorio Roth)
Kafu's book written in the early 1900's, is a sideways look at America from the eyes of a Japanese traveler. A reader today will probably be considered politically incorrect. There are points in the book that will make you say, "I don't think I would have said that!"



This is modern writing geared forward and armed with the strength that is America. His prose move forward like a locomotive engineered by Casey Jones; out amongst the open prairie, plowing over women, minorities, and a few prairie dogs not really getting the time to know the death count.

He progresses on a narrow gauge track through the scope of the United States. He takes a glimpse through his slanted window to look out amongst the scenery. You can tell that Kafu gets a sensual thrill from the scenery that he moves through. But the people he truly does not get to know. They are constructions that are flat and cutout.

Kafu saw that art without sexual tension had no meaning. His prose explore the American cat houses, and treats women as objects that he does not dare get close to. One can see the psychological delusions of the author who was laden with anti social sensibilities. At times the reader feels sad for the writer's lack of ability to connect to a human being.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
View all 2 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780231117906
Translator:
Iriye, Mitsuko
Author:
Iriye, Mitsuko
Author:
Nagai, Kafu
Author:
Kafu, Nagai
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Location:
New York :
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
Short Stories (single author)
Subject:
Asian - General
Subject:
Translations into english
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Series:
Modern Asian Literature (Paperback)
Series Volume:
7792
Publication Date:
20000331
Binding:
Hardcover
Language:
English
Pages:
192
Dimensions:
8.18x6.26x.90 in. .98 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » Politics » General

American Stories (Modern Asian Literature) New Hardcover
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Product details 192 pages Columbia University Press - English 9780231117906 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Nagai Kafu is one of the greatest modern Japanese writers, but until now his classic collection, American Stories, based on his sojourn from Japan to Washington State, Michigan, and New York City in the early years of the twentieth century, has never been available in English. Here, with a detailed and insightful introduction, is an elegant translation of Kafu's perceptive and lyrical account.

Like de Tocqueville a century before, Kafu casts a fresh, keen eye on vibrant and varied America — world fairs, concert halls, and college campuses; saloons, the immigrant underclass, and red-light districts. Many of his vignettes involve encounters with fellow Japanese or Chinese immigrants, some of whom are poorly paid laborers facing daily discrimination. The stories paint a broad landscape of the challenges of American life for the poor, the foreign born, and the disaffected, peopled with crisp individual portraits that reveal the daily disappointments and occasional euphorias of modern life.

Translator Mitsuko Iriye's introduction provides important cultural and biographical background about Kafu's upbringing in rapidly modernizing Japan, as well as literary context for this collection. In the first story, Night Talk in a Cabin, three young men sailing from Japan to Seattle each reveal how poor prospects, shattered confidence, or a broken heart has driven him to seek a better life abroad. In Atop the Hill, the narrator meets a fellow Japanese expatriate at a small midwestern religious college, who slowly reveals his complex reasons for leaving behind his wife in Japan. Caught between the pleasures of America's cities and the stoicism of its small towns, he wonders if he can ever return home.

Kafu plays with the contradictions and complexities of early twentieth-century America, revealing the tawdry, poor, and mundane underside of New York's glamour in Ladies of the Night while celebrating the ingenuity, cosmopolitanism, and freedom of the American city in Two Days in Chicago. At once sensitive and witty, elegant and gritty, these stories provide a nuanced outsider's view of the United States and a perfect entrance into modern Japanese literature.

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