John Nathan is Takashima Professor of Japanese Cultural Studies Emeritus at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He has translated novels by Yukio Mishima, Sōseki Natsume, and Kenzaburō Ōe. His books include Mishima: A Biography, Sōseki: Modern Japan’s Greatest Novelist, and Living Carelessly in Tokyo and Elsewhere.
 (May 2019)


‘Night and Blood and Death’

Yukio Mishima, Tokyo, 1970

The Frolic of the Beasts

by Yukio Mishima, translated from the Japanese by Andrew Clare
In September 1966, I wrote a profile for Life that ran under the headline “Japan’s Dynamo of Letters.” My subject was Yukio Mishima, forty-one at the time, a best-selling novelist, playwright, literary critic, and flamboyant man-about-town. Readers learned that he had graduated at the head of his class from the …

Japan Deconstructed

A Japanese banknote with a portrait of Natsume Sōseki

The Rise and Fall of Modern Japanese Literature

by John Whittier Treat
Donald Keene’s magnum opus, fifteen years in the writing, was A History of Japanese Literature in four immense volumes, an account of the entire national literature from the eighth-century creation chronicles to Mishima Yukio in the 1960s. Anyone who has spent his professional life sweating and cursing over Japanese texts …

Who Can Put Across Genji?

‘Lady Fugitsubo watching Prince Genji departing in the moonlight’; Japanese woodblock print of a scene from The Tale of Genji, 1853

The Tale of Genji

by Murasaki Shikibu, translated from the Japanese by Dennis Washburn
The Tale of Genji, scenes from the emperor’s court in eleventh-century Japan organized around the amorous adventures of its hero, Prince Genji, goes deeper than any romance. The main characters, the radiant prince in particular and a number of the women he beguiles, are endowed with a range of emotions …