The Chronicles of Lord Asunaro is a curious little volume. In length, perhaps 10,000 words, it is long for a short story but short for a novella. The protagonist, a minor feudal lord in late Tokugawa Japan, was an actual person (apparently: like much else here, it is hard to be sure), his life heavily fictionalized according to the author’s note. While labeled a “tale” or “story”, the narrative in fact lacks much of might conventionally be called a plot.
In a society rife with conflict and a world on the edge of extinction, who should we turn to for answers: society’s strongest or weakest? This is the question Takuji Ichikawa, one of Japan’s most imaginative and unusual authors, poses in The Refugees’ Daughter, a magical modern parable for our troubled times.
Trans-culturalism is personified in the life and career of Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904).
The classic Chinese novel The Water Margin (Shuihu zhuan) tells the story of a band of outlaws in 12th-century China and their insurrection against the corrupt imperial court. Imported into Japan in the early 17th century, it became a ubiquitous source of inspiration for translations, adaptations, parodies, and illustrated woodblock prints. There is no work of Chinese fiction more important to both the development of early modern Japanese literature and the Japanese imagination of China than The Water Margin.
Hiroko Oyamada’s debut novel in English was drawn, it is said, from her experiences working as a temp in the subsidiary of an automaker. If The Factory is any indication, she didn’t take to it.
A remarkable and true tale of loyalty, vengeance, and ritual suicide… In the spring of 1701, the regional lord Asano Naganori wounded his supervising official, Kira Yoshinaka, during an important ceremony in the ruling shogunate’s Edo Castle and was at once condemned to death. Within two years, in the dead of winter, a band of forty-seven of Asano’s retainers avenged him by breaking into Yoshinaka’s mansion and killing him. Subsequently, all the men were sentenced to death but allowed to perform it honorably by seppuku.
In 1415, the English forces under Henry V inflicted a terrible defeat on the French army. After the battle, under a heap of dead soldiers, they found and captured a young man who turned out to be Charles, duc d’Orléans (1394-1465). He was taken to England and placed in honorable captivity, but Henry V ordered that he not be ransomed, so he remained in England until his release in 1440. During his 25 years in England, he learned English and wrote a great deal of well-regarded poetry in that language, and when he finally returned home it was remarked that his English was better than his French.