A Public Space has always been dedicated to promoting international literature, so it’s not all that surprising that Brigid Hughes has joined forces with Roland Kelts (author of Japanamerica), Ted Goossen (professor of Japanese lit) and Motoyuki Shibata (translator into Japanese of Pynchon [!] and a number of other great American writers) to produce an American version of Monkey Business, a journal highlighting new writing from Japan.
Monkey Business was founded in Japan in 2008, and, according to Shibata, is modeled in part after APS. It’s also named after the “immortal Chuck Berry tune.” According to Shibata, “No other work of art that I know of deals with the aggravations we face every day so straightforwardly and with such liberating humor. That is the guiding star we follow on this journey.”
The debut English language edition of MB culls the best writing from the first ten issues published in Japan. It was edited by Shibata and Ted Goossen, a professor at York University in Toronto and general editor of the Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories who has translated work by Murakami, Naoya Shiga, Masuji Ibuse and others. Hughes and Kelts contributed to the English language editing. Stories, poetry, interviews and even a manga, or Japanese comic, reimagining Franz Kafka’s The Country Doctor, grace its pages.
I was too busy this past weekend watching St. Louis take over first place in the NL Central to read through this carefully, but on first glance, I think it will be a vital contribution to Japanesse literature in English. As a publisher, I’ll say that aside from the Japanese Literature Publishing Project, it’s tricky getting good recommendations of Japanese literature. There are a series of posts waiting to be (re)written about this issue, but suffice it to say that with a single 150 page volume, MB has instantly become one of the best sources for info on new “pure literature” coming out of Japan.
In addition to the aforementioned Kafka manga (that runs from right to life [fuckyeahalternativereadingstyles] going from page 137 to 118), this first issue includes a number of interesting looking pieces, including a poem by Inuo Taguchi (translated by Ted Goossen) entitled “Interviews with the Heroes, or Is Baseball Just for Fun?,” a story by Koji Uno (translated by Jay Rubin), a collection of vignettes by Manazuru author Hiromi Kawakami (translated by Ted Goossen), and short story by Hideo Furukawa (translated by Michael Emmerich) that opens like this:
There is no answer. And why not? Because there’s no question. All we’ve got is the fact that the monster is there. And it’s hibernating. That’s stage number one. From here, we move on to stage number two, stage number three. The last stage is more or less identical to the first, so the whole thing is a sort of “cyclical motion,” you might say. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There can be no question that first of all we must address—observe, describe—the movement from the first stage to the second. The monster is there, hibernating . . . or rather, it was hibernating. It’s just woken up.
You can order the issue here, and if you happen to be in NYC over the next couple weeks, you can attend one or more of the opening launch events taking place at the Asia Society, Book Court, and the Japan Society.
I’ll leave off with a bit of Motoyuki Shibata’s “Monkey Business manifesto,” which appeared in the first Japanese issue of the journal:
Monkey Business is the newly founded journal of new writing from Japan and abroad with a few not-so-new works strategically slipped in. We offer nothing in the way of a “concept” or “lifestyle” aimed at a particular age bracket or social group, no useful information to help you get ahead. And we utterly lack that noble desire to provide a sanctuary from the whirl of daily life. If you gain any of these benefits, so much the better, but they are not our goals. Neither, we must add, do we have a radical agenda. Our intent is not to attack the system, whether it be artistic, political, or social. In fact, we aren’t out to pick a fight with anyone, right or left, old or young, conservative or radical.
While looking back at an episode in his life, twenty-year-old Taguchi Hiro remembers what his friend Kumamoto Akira said about poetry.
Its perfection arises precisely from its imperfection . . . . I have an image in my head. I see. . .
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