A five-point catch-up on news, reviews and features from Japan’s literary scene:
- For Haruki Murakami, first-person narratives were his signature style for years, until he transitioned to the third-person in recent works. His collection of short stories “First Person Singular,” released in English on Tuesday, marks a welcome return to the voice that helped the writer gain international acclaim, writes Nicolas Gattig.
- A trove of papers from Kenzaburo Oe, one of only three Japanese winners of the Nobel Prize in literature, have been sent to be archived at his alma mater, the University of Tokyo, including over 10,000 pages of mostly handwritten manuscripts, among them the 1957 piece “Lavish are the Dead,” “Dojidai Game” (“The Game of Contemporaneity”) from 1979 and his 2013 novel “In Late Style.”
- “The Life and Zen Haiku Poetry of Santoka Taneda,” a biography of one of Japan’s most beloved poets, is a loving tribute compiled by Taneda’s friend, Sumita Oyama, writes Steve John Powell. “I’m nothing but a panhandling priest,” Taneda once said of his life as a mendicant monk, wandering the backroads of Japan, composing free verse haiku — and getting roaring drunk.
- A secondhand store in Okinawa specializing in books related to the former kingdom and neighboring Amami islands has celebrated its 40th anniversary, having played a key role in supporting the culture of the southwestern regions. Whether it’s out-of-print books, administrative papers or self-published texts, Book Jindo’s credo is: If it exists, we will find it — even if it takes five years.
- Mieko Kawakami has called out cliched depictions of women by Haruki Murakami, and seen her own bold style attacked by a former Tokyo governor. But the award-winning Japanese author tells AFP-Jiji she is happy to “stir things up” in her drive to depict the world as she sees it, as well as the experiences of people who might otherwise go unnoticed.