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
Dancing for the Avatar
Translated by Polly Barton & Daniel Joseph
North Winds Blow the Leaves From the Trees
‘I liked her quiet regard, the way it gave me a sense of loneliness.’
An Unnecessary Man
‘I’d lived for half a century, but I had no sense of what that meant; no particular reaction.’
‘He told me he had quit his job the day after the earthquake and came out here with nothing but a sleeping bag.’
‘The hole felt as though it was exactly my size – a trap made just for me.’
One Hundred Years and a Day
‘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.
‘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.
Larger Than the Night
‘The night was sealed off completely – or so it seemed.’
Jesse Kirkwood’s translation of ‘Nocturne’ by Yūshō Takiguchi is the winner of the 2020 Harvill Secker Young Translators’ Prize.
People From My Neighbourhood
‘First prize went to the dog school principal, who of course had submitted a cartoon dog.’ Translated from the Japanese by Ted Goossen.
‘During sex, Narumi would picture herself as steamed rice being turned into mochi rice cakes.’
‘Although bara is homonymous with rose, this is not a rose-rose incident.’
Paris Desert, Tokyo Mirage
‘What I thought was the world yesterday, today I couldn’t even touch its outline.’
Two essays by Hitomi Kanehara.
‘If I go to the window, / it could easily turn into bullets or rabbits.’
‘I had an odd feeling as I regarded Yō, who knew things about me that I hadn’t known.’
A Ghost in Brazil
‘I was ever so keen to visit the Aran Islands, but unfortunately, I died before ever making it out of Japan.’
‘Hey, Nagaoka, wanna start a new cult with me?’
New fiction by Sayaka Murata, translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori.
Dancing for the Avatar
‘If I let myself sink down into this I’m never coming back up.’
‘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.’