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Latest Review: "The Demon at Agi Bridge and Other Japanese Tales" Edited by Hauro Shirane

The latest addition to our Reviews Section is a piece by Sasha Miller on The Demon at Agi Bridge and Other Japanese Tales, a collection edited by Hauro Shirane, translated by Burton Watson, and available from Columbia University Press.

This book is part of Columbia’s Translations from the Asian Classics series, which is just one of several Asian-related book series published by CUP. In many ways, CUP is to Asian literature as AUP is to Arabic lit . . . As Lily mentioned in this week’s Read This Next post, we’re going to be featuring one of the book from their Modern Chinese Literature from Taiwan series in a few weeks.

Anyway, onto the review of The Demon at Agi Bridge:

“That must be the demon!” And what a demon it is! Oozing pustules covering bodies, blood excreting from tiny pores, sharpened horns decorating bony skulls . . . The Demon at Agi Bridge and Other Japanese Tales is an expounding collection brimming with translated historical and cultural Japanese anecdotes, focusing specifically on traditionally oral Japanese narratives, known as setsuwa. The combined efforts of translator and editor Burton Watson and Hauro Shirane, respectively, elicit tales for the ignorant reader as well as for those more knowledgeable about the Japanese culture.

A book vaguely reminiscent of the Western morality tales Aesop’s Fables, The Demon at Agi Bridge truly reflects the Japanese oral tradition. The stories themselves often end with a lesson—life lessons such as promoting kindness and friendship (as in the tale “How a Man Received a Bounty After a Period of Prayer at the Hase Temple” where a poor samurai, in possession of no goods or money, profits solely from the kindness he gives others along his travels) while dissuading such actions as envy and dishonesty.

Click here to read the full review.



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