John Nathan is Takashima Professor of Japanese Cultural Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His books include Mishima: A Biography, Sony: The Private Life, and a memoir, Living Carelessly in Tokyo and Elsewhere. His latest book, Soseki: Modern Japan’s Greatest Novelist, was published in May. (August 2018)

IN THE REVIEW

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 …