Thursday, November 22, 2018

Top ten books about Japan

Christopher Harding is a cultural historian of modern Japan, India, and the UK, based at the University of Edinburgh and working also as a journalist for the BBC and a number of newspapers and magazines.

Harding's new book is Japan Story: In Search of a Nation, 1850 - the Present.

One entry on the author's list of the top ten books about Japan, as shared at the Guardian:
Rashōmon and Seventeen Other Stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa

Akutagawa was already a star author when he took his own life in 1927, at the age of just 35. The “vague anxiety” about the future that he described in his suicide note seemed later to mark a tipping point for Japan: from an era of trial-and-error democratisation and cosmopolitanism into something darker and more inward-looking, leading eventually to terrible conflict. This collection features an excellent introduction to Akutagawa and his times by a star author of a later era: Haruki Murakami. More importantly, it features the short story Spinning Gears: a terrifying (self-)portrait of a man at the end of his tether: rifling through bookshop shelves “like a compulsive gambler”, riding Tokyo trains and taxis back and forth, trying to make life tolerable a little while longer. Not much longer, as it turned out. Akutagawa died soon after finishing this final story.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue