Thursday, July 7, 2011
J. Philip Gabriel, professor of Japanese literature and head of the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Arizona, has translated the works of such noted Japanese writers as Murakami Haruki and Oe Kenzaburo. Phil first came to my attention several years ago, when I came across his book Spirit Matters: The Transcendent in Modern Japanese Literature. He spends a good part of the book discussing the works of Miura Ayako (specifically Hyoten and Shiokari Pass) in a way that convinced me I had found that rare Western academic who "got" what Miura was all about and actually valued it.
Through our sporadic email correspondence, I learned that Phil was interested in writing about Miura Ayako's novel Juko, the last novel she wrote before her death in 1999. Imagine how excited I was when he emailed me earlier this year to say he would be making his first trip to Hokkaido in June! Unfortunately, I was unable to accompany Phil and his wife Junko to Asahikawa, Miura's homeground. But they went to the trouble of visiting me at my home in Sapporo, where we had a stimulating discussion on how to get more exposure for Miura's works in the West.
In Asahikawa, Phil visited the Miura Ayako Literature Museum where he had the good fortune to run into Ayako's husband Mitsuyo. He told me the trip hardened his resolve to write about Juko, which was very good to hear. Having a translator and scholar of his caliber committed to writing about Miura's works is a huge encouragement to me. I'm hoping that between the two of us, and with the support of our various networks, we will have more success in introducing Miura lit to English readers than we might have had on own own.