Friday, April 29, 2011

The Monkey in The Common

VOICES FROM JAPAN

HANNAH GERSEN
April 29th, 2011 | 4:26pm

Aside from Haruki Murakami, much of Japanese writing remains unknown in the U.S., simply because it is not translated into English. Now, thanks to collaboration between the Brooklyn-based literary magazine, A Public Space, and the Tokyo-based literary magazines, Monkey Business, a special English-language edition ofMonkey Business is available in the US. This special edition, called “New Voices from Japan”, will showcase the best of the magazine’s first three years of publication and will include stories, poetry, and non-fiction, including an interview with Murakami.

As Stuart Dybek writes in a letter introducing the issue: “The books and anthologies that line my shelves attest to the fact that we live in a golden age of translation. Even so, it’s rare to have a literary magazine like Monkey Business appear in English. It arrives with the sense of discovery and immediacy that one reads literary magazines for.”

Brooklyn’s Book Court, beloved independent bookstore and host of The Common’supcoming New York City reading event, will celebrate the publication of Monkey Business: New Voices from Japan this Sunday, May 1, at 7 p.m. with a party and reading featuring Japanese contributors Hiromi Kawakami, Hideo Furukawa, Minoru Ozawa, and Monkey Business founder and editor Motoyuki Shibata. The magazine’s American writers, editors and translators will also join. It’s a unique chance to meet the creators of Monkey Business: New Voices from Japan, and to pick up copies of the magazine. Additionally, twenty-five percent of all MB sales will go toward the Nippon Foundation/CANPAN Northeastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund.

Roland Kelts, one of Monkey Business’s contributing editors and author ofJapanamerica, a book about the invasion of Japanese pop culture in the US, answered a few questions for The Common about contemporary Japanese literature and its emerging writers:

How would you characterize Japan's current literary culture? Its contemporary literature? Are there any interesting trends emerging?

A lot of writers in Japan seem to be exploring what we might call the 'surreal,' dreamlike nature of contemporary life in an attempt to come to grips with a profoundly advanced, hyper-developed urban nation. And I think the incursion of technology and an 'always-on,' eerily connected yet isolating world makes their work seem particularly apt and insightful. Younger writers in particular feel intimately attuned to our age of exhaustion and repetition. Hideo Furukawa (novelist, author of Thirteen and Belka, Why Don’t You Bark?) for example, imagines a Tokyo inhabited mostly by monsters—who nevertheless feel more sensitive than the humans around them. Of course, Haruki Murakami was onto this trend years ago, which is why his work feels so relevant wherever you are—in NYC, Shanghai, Moscow or Tokyo. [more HERE]

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