Saturday, June 28, 2008

Literary Sojourns: A Glimpse of the Far East

Need a brief hiatus from the world of Western literature? Consider making room on your nightstand for A Late Chrysanthemum: Twenty-one Stories from the Japanese. Translated by Lane Dunlop and accompanied by etchings from Tanaka Ryohei, this small volume is an oriental gem. Within it you will find a collection of short stories from some of Japan’s most influential writers of the early- to mid-twentieth century. While embracing the influence of modern Western writing, these stories retain the elegant minimalism so characteristic of Japan’s literary canon. The style is simple and direct; the content is purely psychology (think Hemingway). Ranging from the provincial countryside of “At Kinosaki” to the bourgeois geisha parlor of “A Late Chrysanthemum," each story offers a lucid snapshot of the mind. Nature is a vital presence within the stories, poignantly throwing into relief the inner silence of the characters. Those who enjoy the classic art of haiku will certainly appreciate the lyrical resonance of Yasunari Kawabata: “A child walked by, rolling a metal hoop that made a sound of autumn.” Or for fans of contemporary fantasy, the musing surrealism of Kobo Abé: “ . . . if you could have looked at the street corners and under the trees of the villages at the bottom of the now-peaceful waters, you would have seen a glittering substance starting to crystallize.” Whether you are a long-time disciple of Asian literature or a curious newcomer, A Late Chrysanthemum will captivate you.


Unknown said...

thanks for the rec :) very informative blog

Anonymous said...

sounds neat!