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20 for 2020

When we began working on a series of new Japanese writing, we imagined showcasing twenty new translations of Japanese fiction, non-fiction and poetry alongside the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. Things, of course, have not gone as planned – the Tokyo Olympics has been pushed back for at least another year. But the writing we have been assembling over the course of many months of reading and discussion simply couldn’t be postponed. This month we will be sharing a selection of timely and exciting new works from the Japanese here at Granta.com.

To select these texts, we have been working closely with the translators Polly Barton, David Karashima and Asa Yoneda. The result, 20 for 2020, features new work from authors who we hope you’ll know already, such as Mieko Kawakami and Sayaka Murata; alongside authors who have not yet been widely translated into English, like Isaka Kotaro, Ko Machida and Maha Harada; and new poetry from Sawako Nakayasu and Toshiko Hirata. We hope that you’ll enjoy them all, and that through reading you’ll experience the capaciousness, imagination and vitality currently at work in Japanese literature.

Image © Ignotus the Mage

Fiction | The Online Edition

North Winds Blow the Leaves From the Trees

Yu Miri

‘I liked her quiet regard, the way it gave me a sense of loneliness.’

Fiction | The Online Edition

An Unnecessary Man

Maha Harada

‘I’d lived for half a century, but I had no sense of what that meant; no particular reaction.’

Fiction | The Online Edition

The Bookmobile

Kotaro Isaka

‘He told me he had quit his job the day after the earthquake and came out here with nothing but a sleeping bag.’

Fiction | The Online Edition

The Hole

Hiroko Oyamada

‘The hole felt as though it was exactly my size – a trap made just for me.’

Fiction | The Online Edition

One Hundred Years and a Day

Tomoka Shibasaki

‘After a while people’s faces began to fade, and they came to seem like hoards of noppera-bō, faceless spirits gliding by.’

Two stories by Tomoka Shibasaki.

Fiction | The Online Edition

Enoki

Aoko Matsuda

‘Without any forewarning or explanation, people suddenly began visiting. They came in droves to find her.’

A story by Aoko Matsuda, translated by Polly Barton.

Fiction | The Online Edition

Larger Than the Night

Masatsugu Ono

‘The night was sealed off completely – or so it seemed.’

Fiction | The Online Edition

Nocturne

Yūshō Takiguchi

Jesse Kirkwood’s translation of ‘Nocturne’ by Yūshō Takiguchi is the winner of the 2020 Harvill Secker Young Translators’ Prize.

Fiction | Granta Books

People From My Neighbourhood

Hiromi Kawakami

‘First prize went to the dog school principal, who of course had submitted a cartoon dog.’ Translated from the Japanese by Ted Goossen.

Fiction | The Online Edition

Shame

Mieko Kawakami

‘During sex, Narumi would picture herself as steamed rice being turned into mochi rice cakes.’

Poetry | The Online Edition

Five Poems

Sawako Nakayasu

‘Although bara is homonymous with rose, this is not a rose-rose incident.’

Essays & Memoir | The Online Edition

Paris Desert, Tokyo Mirage

Hitomi Kanehara

‘What I thought was the world yesterday, today I couldn’t even touch its outline.’

Two essays by Hitomi Kanehara.

In Translation | The Online Edition

Two Poems

Hirata Toshiko

‘If I go to the window, / it could easily turn into bullets or rabbits.’

Fiction | The Online Edition

VIO

Kanako Nishi

‘I had an odd feeling as I regarded Yō, who knew things about me that I hadn’t known.’

Fiction | The Online Edition

A Ghost in Brazil

Kikuko Tsumura

‘I was ever so keen to visit the Aran Islands, but unfortunately, I died before ever making it out of Japan.’

Fiction | The Online Edition

Faith

Sayaka Murata

‘Hey, Nagaoka, wanna start a new cult with me?’

New fiction by Sayaka Murata, translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori.

Fiction | The Online Edition

Dancing for the Avatar

Kō Machida

‘If I let myself sink down into this I’m never coming back up.’

Fiction | The Online Edition

Pretty Polly

Shinichi Hoshi

‘Compared to all of you, I’m not the handsomest guy or the smartest, which might’ve caused me all sorts of grief if I was a landlubber. But I spent my life at sea, so I got by.’