I feel the Nobel Prize has for once been given to someone I think is a good writer; what can they be thinking of? Anyway, Connie and I were sitting at breakfast talking about Kawabata, whose name I can never remember, and usually recollect it as being Watanabe, whoever he may be, when the radio suddenly announced that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize; at first I thought it was some aberration of sound in my head. He was the one I was complaining to you that he was so little translated, which will now change as I expect at this very moment the minions of Alfred A. Knopf are arranging for a great pretentious Collected Works or the like, which in this case is fine by me. Connie filched my copies of Snow Country and Thousand Cranes to take to the Vineyard to reread, else I would have sent them to you, but I think they can still be come by -- Berkeley has them out in paperback.
Edward Gorey to Peter F. Neumeyer, October 18th, 1968. In Floating Worlds: Letters of Edward Gorey and Peter F. Neumeyer, page 72. Somehow, Watanabe seems to be the default Japanese name when you can't think of the right one. Genshiken chapter 59:
Okakura Kakuzo wrote The Book of Tea in English in Boston in 1906 to introduce the Japanese tea ceremony to a Western audience steeped in Aestheticism. Tuttle picked it up in 1956 and has kept it in print ever since. Over the twentieth century Americans worked out a plain, tough, colloquial style of prose ideally suited to writing about Zen practice. Okakura pre-dates that. Here he is on flowers:
Tell me, gentle flowers, teardrops of the stars, standing in the garden, nodding your heads to the bees as they sing of the dew and the sunbeams, are you aware of the fearful doom that awaits you? Dream on, sway and frolic while you may in the gentle breezes of summer. To-morrow a ruthless hand will close around your throats. You will be wrenched, torn asunder limb by limb, and borne away from your quiet homes. The wretch, she may be passing fair. She may say how lovely you are while her fingers are still moist with your blood. Tell me, will this be kindness? It may be your fate to be imprisoned in the hair of one whom you know to be heartless or to be thrust into the buttonhole of one who would not dare to look you in the face were you a man. It may even be your lot to be confined in some narrow vessel with only stagnant water to quench the maddening thirst that warns of ebbing life.
Oh, brother! An ikebana master should hit him with a stick. Tuttle is not doing the way of tea any favours by keeping this book in print.
Sixty years before Wikipedia there were Pelican Books. If you were spotted with one of these in your pocket during World War Two you were considered Officer Material. Now they're back. The volume above was published in 1950, soon after Partition, which might explain why a book primarily about archaeological digs in Pakistan is called Prehistoric India.
Tove. Tove Jansson was born 100 years ago this year. Best known internationally for her Moomin comics, she was also a very good novelist. A lot of her stuff is available in English this year, so snap it up.
Kegan Paul published the series of speculative essays To-Day And To-Morrow from 1923 and 1931. Each volume identifies an aspect of the modern (1920s) world and attempts to foresee how things will develop through the 20th Century. The books have a standard format: brown cardboard boards 6 3/8" tall and 4 5/8" across; labels pasted to the spine and front board; about 90 pages plus ten or twenty pages of ads for other volumes. Most of the books are titled according to the formula: X or the Future of Y, where X is a name from classical mythology and Y is the topic of the volume. In the pile above we have:
Achates or the Future of Canada, by W. Eric Harris.
"Canada's way to the future, then, is well defined. It is a path which leads to world service, within the Empire, and one of intimate co-operation with the United States in an endeavour to keep that influential and powerful nation working in co-operation with the Empire in the development of the peoples of the world, and in the promotion of world peace."
Cassandra or the Future of the British Empire, by F.C.S. Schiller.
"It is therefore by the way of financial influence and control that the political unification of the world can be brought about most easily and smoothly, though gradually, with a minimum of disturbance, violence and friction and with a maximum of peace and prosperity."
Hanno or the Future of Exploration, by J. Leslie Mitchell.
"The inevitable triumph of ballistics that will enable men to explore the lunar deserts may soon elsewhere uprear 'Upon the night's starr'd face/ Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance.'"
Lars Porsena or the Future of Swearing, by Robert Graves.
"To conclude, swearing as an art is at present in low water. National passion seldom runs high, invention is numbed, and there is no appeal of a politico-religious nature which will meet everywhere with the same respect. The only taboo strong enough to be worth breaking is the sexual one, and swearing shows every sign of continuing standardized on the basis of that for some time."
Lysistrata, Woman's Future and Future Woman, by A.M. Ludovici.
"The regeneration of man will immediately transform woman and her position; because, while her contempt for the male will vanish, she will recover both physically and spiritually that lost joy of looking up to her mate."
Morpheus or the Future of Sleep, by Professor D.F. Fraser-Harris M.D., D.Sc., F.R.S.E.
" A certain amount of legislation will be enacted in the near future in the interests of sleep, legislation exactly comparable with that we already have in the interests of pure air, pure food and proper drainage."
Achates was Aeneas' good and faithful friend. Cassandra had the power of prophecy, but nobody believed her. Hanno was an explorer. Lars Porsena swore by the Nine Gods in Macaulay's "Horatio at the Bridge". Lysistrata led a women's strike against the Peloponnesian War. Morpheus was the god of dreams.
A two-volume boxed set of the Edward Seidensticker translation of Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji, printed by Tuttle in 1976, purchased used at Schooner Books on Inglis Street in Halifax three years ago. Evidence that the original owner bought it in Japan in the late 1970s is a ticket to a Stylistics concert, printed in Japanese, and inserted as a bookmark. D
The Mongolian translation of Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 is out. Source. Contemporary Mongolian is written in the Cyrillic script, so altogether on the book covers you have four writing systems: Cyrillic, Latin (Q), Arabic numerals and the Chinese figures for 1 and 2.