Cats have a storied pedigree in Japanese literature. One of modern Japanese literature’s first classics, I Am a Cat by Natsume Soseki, is a parody of Meiji-era Japanese society from a cat’s point of view. (2021 saw the English-language release of a faithful manga adaptation by Chiroru Kobato, translated by Zach Davisson.) Thirty years later, the highly influential author Junichiro Tanizaki published the novella A Cat, a Man, and Two Women.

Mariam Henna’s debut, The Heart Flutters at Night, comes with the tagline “A Campus Novella”. This campus happens to be in South India. As it opens, Sarah, in the aftermath of the breakup of a long-term relationship, moves to a campus town to study communications and write. She takes up residence in an apartment building called Gemvilla. The previous occupants of Sarah’s small apartment didn’t stay long and it’s rumored to be haunted. But Sarah is running from her own demons.    

The narrator of Kou Machida’s Rip It Up is repulsive. In his introduction, translator Daniel Joseph describes him as a “toxic shit heel”. He is sexist; one woman characterizes him as “defilement incarnate”. He constantly insults other people, calling them “morons”, “idiots” and “dumbasses”.

It is somewhat inexplicable that it has taken more than 35 years for Liu Xinwu’s The Wedding Party to show up in English. The book was serialized in 1984 and published the next year, winning the Mao Dun Prize and adapted into an 8-episode series for television. Popularity can be the result of hitting a particular zeitgeist that may not always translate across periods, cultures and languages, but The Wedding Party is a marvelous story of a single December day in the life of an atmospheric Beijing compound populated by sprawling cast of quirky and all-too-human characters, all-written with style and wit. All it was missing was a pitch-perfect translation by Jeremy Tiang.