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March 2015

On Memory: New Japanese Writing

Image: T. Enami, No. S-562 Mt. Fuji Viewed from Lake Yamanaka, and its Reflection. Ca.1907

This month we present new writing on memory from Japan, guest edited and introduced by David Karashima. From nationwide disasters to childhood trauma, in tranquil remembrance and merciless flashback, ten contemporary writers consider the role and the power of national and personal memory. Mitsuyo Kakuta tells an intimate yet chilling tale about a beauty’s dark secret. Akutagawa Prize-winner Natsuko Kuroda turns to tradition to keep the dead alive through memory. In two stories of widowers, Kyoko Nakajima shows a man rediscovering his wife in the kitchen, and Toshiyuki Horie sends an elderly bowling alley owner down Memory Lane. The sudden noise of a window breaking in the night shatters Shun Medoruma’s narrator. In two stories of journeys, Matsuie Masashi’s old woman wanders through the city and into the past, and Meiko Kawakami’s floundering young woman sets off to fulfill a teenage promise. Keiichiro Hirano’s bullied schoolboy finds himself trapped in a recurring nightmare. Hideo Furukawa sees rogue fruit infecting people with memories that threaten to “corrupt public morals.” And Yoko Tawada imagines all of Japan rendered uninhabitable by a contamination of a different kind. We hope you’ll enjoy this, well, memorable work. We thank the British Centre for Literary Translation and the Nippon Foundation for their generous support. Also this month, we present a special section of new Mexican writing, guest edited and introduced by Thomas Bunstead and Sophie Hughes, with new work by Luis Felipe Fabre, Agustín Goenaga, Yuri Herrera, and Laia Jufresa.

On Memory: New Writing from Japan

We have recently been made increasingly aware of the everyday failings of our own memories.

The Far Shore

“It is absolutely safe to restart the reactor as long as nothing unforeseen happens.”

The Memory

And then what did you do, he asked, and she said, I watched.


We simply couldn’t tolerate rogue fruit infiltrating Tokyo and corrupting public morals.

When My Wife Was a Shiitake

"When you hold an egg in your hand, its memories are communicated to you through its shell, you know."


The fragments of the girl come tumbling down.

The Trapped Boy

I watch the city lose its shape like a dripping watercolor.

Stance Dots

Not once in his bowling alley had he heard that special, unforgettable sound.

Telegraph Pole

The bus stop by the train station had moved. It was further away.

Where Have All the Sundays Gone?

No matter how old I become, I will still go on like this, not knowing.


The flowers depicted, which must have differed from one to the next, are also hazy.


Book Reviews

Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s “Dirty Dust”

Reviewed by Darragh Mcnicholas

Talk is not only the “principal character in this book,” as Titley writes in his translator’s note, it is the book.

Alejandro Zambra’s “My Documents”

Reviewed by Megha Majumdar

In his nostalgic yet critical gaze, the introduction of home computers in those years becomes a symbol for larger reconfigurations of solitude and companionship.

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