Earlier this month, Toho Studios released “Godzilla Minus One”—the 37th film in the now almost seven-decade-old franchise. Godzilla has gone through many phases over the past 70 years: symbol of Japan’s nuclear fears, cuddly defender of humanity, Japanese cultural icon and, now, the centerpiece of another Hollywood cinematic universe.
The giant reptile Godzilla has spawned a franchise of 38 films (and counting) and even has his own official website. But for all the fun of a rampaging 50m monster (or is he 120m?—he has grown along with Tokyo’s skyline), it’s easy to miss his origins as a powerful metaphor for the consequences of nuclear warfare. Shigeru Kayama’s novellas Godzilla and Godzilla Raids Again in Jeffrey Angles’s new translation restore Godzilla’s metaphorical roots.
Amid the scorching heat of August 1947, the Edo Tattoo Society hosts a spectacle that captivates the city: a competition to crown the person with the most exquisite body art. Held at a garden restaurant, their first post-War meeting draws a large crowd. Among the attendees is Kenzo Matsushita, recently returned from the war where he served as a military medic. He has only a passing curiosity about tattoos yet becomes completely swept up in the excitement of the evening.
Jyotirmoyee Devi Sen (1894-1988), a pioneering Bengali feminist writer in the first part of the 20th century, is well-known for her novel Epar Ganga, Opar Ganga (The River Churning: A Partition Novel) and her short story collection Sona Rupa Noy (Not Gold and Silver) for which she received the prestigious Rabindra Puraskar, the highest honorary literary award in West Bengal, in 1973. Born in Jaipur, the present-day capital of Rajasthan in India, she spent her childhood in the princely state where her grandfather worked as dewan or prime minister to the maharaja of Jaipur.
In 1980, a year after Mridula Garg’s Hindi-language novel Chittacobra was published, two policemen appeared at her door at night to arrest her under sections 292, 293, and 294 of the Indian Penal Code, commonly referred to as the Act of Obscenity. The case was built around a scene of just two pages that described Manu, the novel’s protagonist, having sex with her husband Mahesh, whom she no longer loves.
The last few years have seen a dramatic increase in titles translated from Japanese into English. While many of these novels and short stories collections are by rising authors, publishers also present readers with classic works by authors already well-known outside of Japan. These include Osamu Dazai, long celebrated for his No Longer Human, first translated into English by Donald Keene in the 1950s. Dazai’s A New Hamlet was translated by Owen Cooney in 2016. No Longer Human was released in a new translation by Mark Gibeau as a Shameful Life in 2018. The short-story collection Early Light debuted in the fall of 2022. The Flowers of Buffoonery is the latest addition to his oeuvre in English.
Banine’s Parisian Days picks up from where from where Days in the Caucasus leaves off: with the still very young woman pulling into the Gare de Lyon having the escaped the clutches of her besotted yet unwanted husband—the result of a deal to get her father out of jail, out of Bolshevik Baku and out of the country—in Istanbul.