Though the publishing industry is still struggling to come out from under the cloud of the pandemic, with supply chain issues and cash flow problems plaguing all but the biggest presses, fans of Japanese literature have little need to worry about a lack of new releases. As I wrote in my 2023 list of upcoming must-read titles, readers have become spoiled for choice in recent years — and 2024 promises to be another bumper year for Japanese literature in translation and books about Japan.
February sees the publication of “Point Zero” by Seicho Matsumoto (Bitter Lemon Press, translated by Louise Heal Kawai). Set in Tokyo at the end of the U.S. occupation, this classic crime novel was first published in 1959 and moves beyond the traditional whodunnit puzzle into biting social analysis as a housewife investigating her husband’s disappearance is drawn into a murky world of murder and prostitution.
Also in February comes the debut novel “Mongrel” by British Japanese author and actor Hanako Footman. The stories of three young Japanese women — two in England, one in Tokyo — combine into what publisher Footnote Press calls “a tangled web of desire.” If the advance hype is to be believed, then this should be one of 2024’s must-read novels.