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New Writing from Japan

July 2012

This month and next we’re showcasing writing from Japan. In the wake of the events of March 11, 2011, the boundaries between real and unreal, solid and fluid, seem to have shifted; guest editor Michael Emmerich has selected pieces that resonate with the country’s new mood. The pieces in this first part have the texture of a dream, unstable, fleeting, fantastic. In tales of shape-shifting, Jin Keita finds new life in a different form, and Kawakami Hiromi pursues a girl who turns into a pearl. Kurahashi Yumiko takes flower arranging to a new level. Akutagawa Prize winner EnJoe Toh spins a yarn about an oddly familiar galaxy. Nakai Hideo follows an illusionist and finds himself part of the act.  Medoruma Shun receives voice mail from the beyond. Poet Yotsumoto Yasuhiro plays with rhyme and rhythm. And Furukawa Hideo’s young office worker stumbles upon a new world only steps away. The issue is produced in partnership with the British Centre for Literary Translation. We thank the BCLT, and David Karashima and the Nippon Foundation, for their generous support. Elsewhere, we present three views of the current Greek crisis from Amanda Michalopoulou, Petros Markaris, and Auguste Corteau.

By Nomura Kiwao
For now I’ll just give it that name, repelling all water, still
Translated from Japanese by Angus Turvill
The Reality of Dreams: An Introduction
By Michael Emmerich
A little more than a year has passed since a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck forty-two miles off the coast of northeastern Japan, raising a tsunami that swelled as high as 131 feet in places and left…
By Jin Keita
I was spending the better part of each day in a state of vaporization. In part this was to reduce physical strain on my lower back, which often pained me. The main reason, though, was because my mind…
Translated from Japanese by Alison Watts
Apollo’s Head
By Kurahashi Yumiko
It was a pleasant evening in late autumn. I was taking my usual shortcut home through the wooded campus of my university with its many tall ginkgo and zelkova trees. Strolling along, I came to a spot…
Translated from Japanese by Ian MacDonald
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Galactic Empire
By EnJoe Toh
Just when you think you’ve figured out what is going on in “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Galactic Empire,” you trip on another oblique reference to some bit of the outside…
Translated from Japanese by Jocelyne Allen
Underground City
By Nakai Hideo
One December morning, Yonekura received an announcement for a farewell show by the celebrated Japanese-style illusionist Kyokujitsusai Tenka. Holding the mica-flecked invitation, Yonekura recalled visiting…
Translated from Japanese by David Boyd
Record of a Night too Brief
By Kawakami Hiromi
Horse What was that itch on my back, I wondered. And then I realized: the night was nibbling into me. It wasn't that late yet, still only dusk, but the darkness appeared to be collecting just above…
Translated from Japanese by Lucy North
Stories from the Streets of Koza
By Shun Medoruma
FlowersToward the end of March, along the side street that runs parallel to Park Avenue, the golden trumpet flowers started to bloom. People talk about how yellow the blossoms can get, but it was even…
Translated from Japanese by Sam Malissa
Fish Variations
By Yotsumoto Yasuhiro
“Fish Variations” presents very interesting challenges to the translator in its play with linguistic form. The poem involves a very high degree of phonetic engineering, with some verses grouped…
Translated from Japanese by Angus Turvill
The Farside
By Hideo Furukawa
And the woman who died—the victim, I mean—looked just like you.
Translated from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori
from “Overdue Loans”
By Petros Markaris
The offices of the Central Bank are on Pireos Avenue. I head down Alexandras so as to turn onto Patision and hit Pireos at Omonia Square. That’s the logical route, only in Greece what’s logical…
Translated from Greek by Karen Emmerich
Woman in Tree
By Amanda Michalopoulou
Marianna Domvrou stepped out of the corner store carrying a red bucket and match­ing mop. She enjoyed running errands in her new neighborhood, as if she were an ordinary woman in need of ordinary…
Translated from Greek by Karen Emmerich