Four Japanese writers to read at launch of English edition of ‘Monkey Business’

Four of Japan’s leading literary figures will read in Japanese and with English translation, and provide commentary on Japanese literature at the launch of the first annual English edition of Monkey Business: New Writing from Japan at York.

The launch will take place Monday, Sept. 12, from 12:30 to 2:30pm, in the Harry Crowe Room, 109 Atkinson College, Keele campus.

 Hiromi KawakamiThe Japanese writers – haiku poet Minoru Ozawa, novelists Hiromi Kawakami and Hideo Furukawa, and translator/essayist Motoyuki Shibata – will also discuss writing and the Japanese scene, as well as answer questions.

Right: Hiromi Kawakami

“The four writers chosen are all important figures in Japanese literature today; yet at the same time they are very different,” says York humanities Professor Ted Goossen, co-editor of Monkey Business International (MBI), which contains translations of the best from the Japanese Monkey Business, a three-year-old literary journal featuring a balance of original Japanese and translated foreign literature. It was Goossen’s idea to begin Monkey Business International, which he and Shibata have developed over the past three years. They were aided by a publishing grant from The Nippon Foundation with assistance of the publisher of A Public Space, an eminent literary magazine based in Brooklyn.

“We launched MBI in New York City in May and Tokyo in June, so the Toronto launch is the third and last for this first issue,” says Goossen, editor of The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories (Oxford University Press, 1997).

Hideo FurukawaLeft: Hideo Furukawa

“One reason why we have received so much support and publicity is that we are publishing new Japanese writing hot off the press, as it were. Unlike in the past, when many years passed between the appearance of the Japanese and translated versions, we are able to allow people to read Japanese literature written in the last several year, in some cases within 12 months’ time. This is unprecedented, and suggests the value of translating literary journals.”

In addition to the York University launch, there will also be an event at the Japan Foundation in Toronto Friday, Sept. 9, where Ozawa and Kawakami will be paired with two Canadian writers, novelist Eric McCormack and poet Rob Winger, and another event – The Translator and the Novelist: Japanese Literature After Fukushima – at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre Tuesday, Sept. 13.

Here are more details on the participants:

Hiromi Kawakami is a Japanese writer known for her off-beat fiction. She is one of Japan’s leading figures, an author of often surrealistic novels and short stories. She has won many awards. She made her debut as Yamada Hiromi in NW]SF #16, edited by Minoru Ozawa Yamano Koichi and Yamada Kazuko, in 1980 with the story Soshimoku (Diptera), and also helped edit some early issues of NW]SF in the 1970s. She reinvented herself as a writer and made her second debut in mainstream literature in 1994. Since then she has become one of the most popular and respected writers of fiction in Japan. One of her works, Manazuru, is available in English translation and Monkey Business International features a number of new, shorter works.

Minoru Ozawa (right) is a leading haiku poet who edits the highly regarded haiku journal Sawa. He will be featured in the upcoming issue MBI for the first time in English translation. Ozawa won the Haiku Poet Association New Poet Award with his second collection Ritsuzo (Statue) in 1998. His 2005 collection Shunkan (The Moment) was awarded the Yomiuri Prize for Literature and Haiku no Hajimaru Basho (Where the Haiku Begins), a book-length essay on the art of haiku, won the Haiku Poet Association Criticism Award. He teaches at Atomi Gakuen Women’s University.

Motoyuki Shibata Motoyuki Shibata (left), the editor of Monkey Business and co-editor of MBI, teaches American literature and literary translation at the University of Tokyo. He is Japan’s foremost translator of American literature. Some of the authors he has translated include Paul Auster, Steve Erickson, Steven Millhauser, Richard Powers, Stuart Dybek, Rebecca Brown and Barry Yourgrau. His collection of critical essays, The American Narcissus, received the Suntory Prize for Social Sciences & Humanities in 2005.

Hideo Furukawa is a prolific writer and novelist. In 1998, he debuted as a novelist with Jusan (Thirteen). In 2005, he was nominated for the Naoki Prize for Beruka, hoenainoka? (Belka, Why Don’t You Bark?) and received the Misima Yukio Prize for Rabu (Love). In 2002, he received the Japan Mystery Writers’ Association Prize and Japan SF Grand Prize, for Arabia no yoru no syuzoku (Tribe of Arabian Nights). He also has been active beyond the literary circles. Since 2006, he has been hosting the musical event “Rodoku gigu” (recitation gig), where he plays his own music with Shutoku Mukai, Gozo Yoshimasu and others. Furukawa is also from Fukushima, site of the nuclear power plant disaster, which gives his voice special relevance today.

Eric McCormack (Eric McCormack (right) came from Scotland to Canada in 1966 and taught literature at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo until his retirement in 2004. His books have been published in many languages, including Russian and Chinese. His first novel, The Paradise Motel, won the Scottish Council Book Prize, while other books have been short-listed for various awards – Inspecting the Vaults (Commonwealth Writers Prize, 1987); First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (Governor General’s Award, 1997); and The Dutch Wife (City of Toronto Book Award, 2002). His stories have been included in such anthologies as The Oxford Book of Canadian Ghost Stories and The Oxford Book of Scottish Short Stories.

Rob Winger grew up in small-town Ontario before graduating to post-punk and new wave. His first book, Muybridge’s Horse, was named a Globe and Mail Best Book for 2007 and was short-listed for the Governor General’s Award, Ottawa Book Award and Trillium Book Award for Poetry. An active editor and teacher, Winger recently completed a PhD in literature and cultural studies in Ottawa. He and his family live northeast of Toronto. His second collection of poetry is The Chimney Stone (2010), a book of ghazals – Persian lyric poems.

The visiting writers were sponsored by the Toronto office of the Japan Foundation. For more information about the launch, visit the York Centre for Asian Research.