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Jun'ichiro Tanizaki, Yasunari Kawabata, Yukio Mishima, Kobo Abe, and Ryotaro Shiba: these great men of modern Japanese letters were all acquaintances of Keene (Columbia Univ.), and he writes in a charming, personal tone, recounting humorous anecdotes, telling the stories of their first meetings, and sharing his initial impressions. As they have all died (Shiba most recently, in 1996), this slender book is Keene's tribute to them. He mentions their best-known works and discusses some of the controversies surrounding them, e.g., Kawabata is known for having won the Nobel prize in literature in 1968 although Mishima was considered a strong candidate. Mishima, of course, made world news with his spectacular suicide by seppuku in 1970. A helpful list of the novelists' major translated works is provided at the end. Recommended for libraries with large collections of Japanese literature.
Kitty Chen Dean, Nassau Coll., Garden City, NY
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Keene first went to study in Japan after World War II--just in time, it now seems, to become acquainted with five great Japanese novelists: Tanizaki and Kawabata, whose stars rose before the war, and postwar writers Mishima, Abe, and Shiba, Japan's favorite historical novelist. His essays on them, part memoir and part literary evaluation, are ideal introductions to their subjects. The older men wrote of the Japan of their heyday, Tanizaki in fascinated reaction to Western, especially American, influences, and Kawabata in a mixture of avant-garde and traditional literary manners. Mishima carried on the older novelists' practices from a sociopolitical-critical perspective that brought him international attention. Abe wrote Kafkaesque stories out of his consciousness as a Japanese who grew up outside Japan, and Shiba made Japan's history especially appreciable by modern Japanese readers. A close friend of each of the younger three, Keene ably speculates on Mishima's spectacular suicide, makes a full-dress biography of the contrarian Abe seem absolutely necessary, and suggests how to increase American appreciation of Shiba. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.