This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of the first English-language translation of "Kusamakura" (literally "Pillow of Grass"), a 1906 novella by one of Japan's greatest writers, Natsume Soseki (1867-1916). Published in 1965, this award-winning translation — by Alan Turney — was given a new title: “The Three-Cornered World."
Soseki's original, "Kusamakura," contains some particularly fine examples of Japanese expression, and is packed with philosophical musings on the nature of Western painting, Chinese poetry and Zen among many other subjects. For Soseki's legions of fans it is a tour de force.
And yet for 60 years the novella remained almost unknown outside Japan. Steeped in wit and allusion, and dense with meaning, its translation demanded years of research and preparation. It is all the more surprising then that the first person to translate "Kusamakura" into English should be a young man who had only started learning Japanese a mere six years before starting the translation.