Gunzo and Granta’s Collaboration

Ryosuke Saegusa

In this essay, Ryosuke Saegusa, editor of Gunzo magazine, gives a brief history of the Japanese literary monthly and explains its new collaboration with Granta.


Gunzo was founded in 1946, a year after the end of the Second World War. Since then, the magazine has published the most eminent names in modern Japanese literature, including Nobel Laureates Yasunari Kawabata and Kenzaburō Ōe. Other contributors have included Junichiro Tanizaki, Yukio Mishima and Kobo Abe – writers whose work is being read and reread in classrooms and homes throughout the world today. At the same time, Gunzo is committed to identifying and nurturing new talent: Haruki Murakami, Kojin Karatani, Ryu Murakami, Yoko Tawada and Kazushige Abe all emerged on to the literary scene by winning the Gunzo Award for New Writers.

We are by no means restricted to Japanese writers, though: Miranda July, George Saunders, Ali Smith, Maureen F. McHugh and Nicholson Baker have all featured in our pages.

The August 2010 issue inaugurates our collaborative project with Granta, in which selected works by the best contemporary writers will be published simultaneously in Japanese and English. Gunzo will publish Japanese translations of works written for Granta, while Granta will publish English translations of works written for Gunzo.

Our collaboration begins with new stories by two of the most exciting voices in contemporary literature. The first of these is ‘In Goats’ Eyes is the Sky Blue?’, a short story by Natsuo Kirino. This story is now available in English translation to readers around the world on the Granta website. The second story is ‘Ceiling’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, from the summer 2010 issue of Granta and published in Japanese translation in the August 2010 issue of Gunzo.

With cutting-edge literature emerging from the collision of different languages and cultures and the emergence of a generation of distinctive writers in Japan – writers who are not only inheriting the Japanese literary tradition, but also absorbing literature from around the world, as well as films and other works of art – we believe that it will benefit readers and writers to have a forum where great works of fiction are instantly translated: a forum that can nurture that literary chemical reaction. We are very excited to introduce those brilliant writers to the readers of Granta, and are delighted to be among the first readers to appreciate their works.

Granta editor John Freeman tells me the magazine is named after a river in the Cambridge, and states that ‘literary magazines are passageways for something that is almost as freely moving as water’. I agree, but there is this too: sometimes two watercourses, like Gunzo and Granta, will come together – forming a mighty, overflowing river.

Catherine Chung | Interview