Collections of literary works on quake to hit U.S., Britain, France

November 12, 2011

By YUSUKE TAKATSU / Staff Writer

"One Year Later," a collection of literary works by Japanese authors on the Great East Japan Earthquake, will be released by publishing houses in the United States, Britain and Japan in March 2012 to mark the first anniversary of the disaster.

The idea behind the project is for the authors to convey emotions that media coverage at the time did not necessarily reflect.

Vintage Books of the United States, Harvill Secker of Britain and Kodansha Ltd. of Japan will publish the collection simultaneously.

"One Year Later" is the provisional title.

David Karashima, whose job at the Nippon Foundation is to introduce Japanese literature to the rest of the world, mediated the arrangement with the U.S. and British publishers.

"Our foreign partners said they wanted to know about literature's response to learn how the Japanese faced the disastrous earthquake," Karashima said.

More than 10 authors agreed to contribute their works, including original stories.

Natsuki Ikezawa, who made numerous visits to the disaster-stricken Tokohu region, contributed a short story titled "Utsukushii Sobo no Seisho" (A beautiful grandmother's Bible). It is about a volunteer worker who finds consolation from conversations with a man at an evacuation shelter.

"Complacency sets in if we simply view disaster survivors as vulnerable people," Ikezawa said. "We have to show that there are different aspects to the situation."

Kazumi Saeki, who lives in Sendai, contributed "Hiyori-yama" (Mount Hiyori), in which the narrator visits a coastal "mountain," only several meters in elevation, with a friend from his evacuation shelter.

"I keep my eyes on details that journalism has no way of injecting into stories," Saeki said. "It's a fixed-point observation of banality."

Corinne Quentin, director of the Tokyo-based Bureau des Copyrights Francais that promotes Japanese culture among French people, will publish "L'archipel des seismes" (An archipelago of earthquakes) from Editions Philippe Picquier in France in February.

She plans to reprint more than 10 articles from Japanese magazines, including verse by famed poet Shuntaro Tanikawa and a report by writer Mitsuyo Kakuta.

"The nuclear accident is in the news," Quentin said. "But writers' voices are necessary to let the actual state of Japan become known down to its nuances."

Genichiro Takahashi, who published the novel "Koi Suru Genpatsu" (A nuclear power plant in love) in the November issue of the Gunzo literary magazine, also contributed.

In the novel, the protagonist resists social pressures to conform and thus show respect to the disaster victims.

"There is a need to make a step forward now, even at the cost of blemishing the artistic value of literature," Takahashi said.

By YUSUKE TAKATSU / Staff Writer
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Natsuki Ikezawa (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Natsuki Ikezawa (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Natsuki Ikezawa (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
  • Kazumi Saeki (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
  • Genichiro Takahashi (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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