Thursday, 31 March 2011

Speculative Japan 2

Noticing that the contents list of the first volume of Speculative Japan included a slight overlap of stories - two I think, from The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories , I thought I'd better get a copy of Speculative Japan 2. Published by Kurodahan Press the collection comes with a Preface by Edward Lipsett who mentions that in this second collection the scope was broadened a little wider to include fiction that could be read as speculative, and the stories selected here offer a great range, Takagi Nobuko, who won the Tanizaki Prize with, Translucent Tree, is represented with the story Melk's Golden Acres, translated by Dink Tanaka, whose translation of the story won the 2009 Kurodahan Press Translation Prize, the narrative follows a woman's visit to Melk Abbey, taking in the Abbey's history and collection of ancient manuscripts, she pauses in the monastic atmosphere of the Abbey, the woman encounters a man who at first meeting exhibits some peculiar sentiments, looking up at the fresco/secco he points out the hidden image of a woman , the narrator slowly unravels the con-sequences of their relationship, this story seems to be distant to resembling science fiction but has an explorative theological theme to it. Open Up by Hori Akira, translated by Roy Berman, is a brief, but very readable homage to Hoshi Shinichi, narrated by two  perspectives, but possibly from one person, it follows a lone astronaut exiting from hyperspace, who's caught on the toilet when unexpectedly he hears a knock on the door.. The opening story is by Awa Naoko, A Gift From the Sea translated by Sheryl A. Hogg is an intriguing fable like tale, situated in a rural seaside village,  The Fox's Window and Other Stories, translated by Toshiya Kamei was recently published by University of New Orleans Press, Blue Shells, a short story by Awa Naoko along with an interview with translator Toshiya Kamei can be read at Moulin Review.

A story that seemed to fully represent the speculative is Freud by Enjoe Toh, translated by Kevin Steinbach , after the Grandmother of the narrator passes away the family are left with what should happen to the old woman's house, concluding that no one in the family wants to move into the house, and none can afford the upkeep they agree on pulling it down. The family gather to begin the demolition and under the floor they discover a 'crowd' of Freuds, yes, Sigmund Frueds, or 'old Mr. Scary Face', as the narrator puts it. Following the family as they ponder on the meaning of this mystifying discovery, the story is full of humorous metaphorical and philosophical explorations. The Big Drawer by Onda Riku, translated by Nora Stevens Heath, is a story that could straddle many genres. A brother, (Mitsunori) and sister, (Kimiko), of an extraordinary, possibly extra-terrestrial  family settle into their new life and school in Tokyo, the family have an ability to memorize vast chunks of Japanese Literature, Mitsunori has already memorized up to the 19th century, although they are told to keep this ability a secret from the other children by their parents. Walking to school Mitsunori usually passes an elderly neighbour, one morning the neighbour keels over and dies, at this moment Mitsunori has a psychic vision of the key events in the man's life, which enables him to expose a secret that will heal a rift between the man and his son. Mountaintop Symphony by Nakai Norio, translated by Terry Gallagher, follows an orchestra as they prepare to perform their movement in an epic symphony that is so long that no one alive has heard the beginning of or will ever hear it's completion, the story is a fantastically realized metaphorical one as the slight neurosis of each of the characters is subtly revealed and explored. The title story, The Man Who Watched the Sea, by Kobayashi Yasumi is translated by Anthea Murphy, is a tale of an unfulfilled romance between a couple who are in differing dimensions, one in Shoreville and the other in Mountville.

Other authors included are; Ogawa Issui, with Old Vohl's Planet, translated by Jim Hubbert who has also translated Ogawa's  The Next Continent and The Lord of the Sands of Time for Haikasoru. Kajio Shinji, whose story Reiko's Universe Box features in the first volume of Speculative Japan is represented with, Emanon: A Reminiscence, an award winning story translated by Edward Lipsett. Kitakuni Koji: Midst the Mist, translated by Rossa O'Muireartaigh, Tani Koshu with Q-Cruiser Basilisk translated by Simon Varnam and also Yamao Yuko, whose story Perspective is translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori.  



mel u said...

great to see you back posting-I hope you and your family are all fine-thanks for the link to the translated story-I will read and post on it soon-I recently posted on 3 short stories by classic writers

me. said...

I'm looking forward to reading your post, I'll post some links to some more books to read online in the near future - thanks for the comments Mel.