Works I Have So Far Read for The Japanese Literature Challenge 12
- “Insects” - a Short Story by Yuchi Seirai, a post Atomic Bomb work,2012
- The Great Passage by Shion Miura, 2011, a deeply moving work centered on the creation of a Japanese Language Dictionary
- "The Whale That Fell in Love with a Submarine" A Short Story by Akiyuki Nosaka- 2003- translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori - 2015
- “Bee Honey” - A Short Story by Banana Yoshimoto- 2000 - set in Argentina during the annual Mother’s March for Disappeared Children.
- Killing Commendatore: A Novel by Huruki Murakami- 2017
- The Master Key by Masako Togawa - 1962 - translated by Simon Grove
- "The Elephant and its Keeper" - A Short Story by Akiyuki Nasaka- 2003. translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemari
The Japanese Literature Challenge, #jlc12, runs until March 31. Everyone is invited to join us. Maybe as happened to me by participating in JLC 3 back in 2009, ten years from now you will count numerous Japanese writers among your favorite writers.
"The Elephant and its Keeper" is the third story included in The Cake Tree in the Ruins, a collection of short stories by Akiyuki Nasaka, published by Pushkin Press I have now read. Six of the twelve stories, for sure I will read them all, feature animals in the title. All of the stories in the collection are set in the final days of World War Two. Much of the population of Japan is near starvation, much of the country, especially Tokyo, is in ruins. There is no hope left of victory and nothing to look forward to but more misery. Nasaka's stories focus on the most innocent victims, children, animals, and country people. His amazing "The Whale Who Fell in Love with a Submarine" reads almost like fairy tale but cuts deeply.
"The Elephant and its Keeper" begins in Tokyo in 1945. Government officials are worried that American bombs may free potentially dangerous Tokyo Zoo animals, lions, tigers, wolves etc. The animals are closed to starving and might attack residents. Plus it takes too many resources to feed them. A machine is designed to strangle the animals. All are killed but for the zoo's biggest resident, the elephant. The machine does not work on him. The officials decide to stop feeding him and let him die of starvation. They tell his keeper, of many years, not to come anymore. It was so sad when the elephant heartbroken looks for his keeper. The keeper did not just feed him but stayed with him nearly all the time. The keeper cannot stand the thought of his friend starving. Against regulations, he begins sneaking food to the elephant, enough so the officials wonder why he lives on. The keeper discovered they plan to shot his friend. He tells the elephant they will leave tommorow night and hide in the countryside, where the elephant can eat grass. The keeper knows he will be in big trouble if they are found. Under the cover of night they sneak out.
I don't want to reveal much more of this very poignant story. It is a love story on both sides as the elephant shows the depth of his returned love
when the keeper's darkest hour comes.
Akiyuki Nosaka was born in 1930 in Japan, and was a member of the yakeato generation, 'the generation of the ashes', who survived the devastating firebombing of their country during the Second World War. Nosaka lost both his parents and sister in the bombing and its aftermath, but went on to become an award-winning novelist, short-story writer, essayist, lyricist, singer and politician. His novel Grave of the Fireflies was turned into a hugely successful Studio Ghibli film and is forthcoming in a new translation from Pushkin Press.Nosaka died in 2015...from Pushkin Press
Ginny Tapley Takemori studied Japanese at the universities of SOAS (London), Waseda (Tokyo), and Sheffield, and now lives in rural Japan. She has translated a dozen or so early modern and contemporary Japanese authors, and her most recent publications include From the Fatherland with Love by Ryū Murakami (with cotranslators Ralph McCarthy and Charles de Wolf), Puppet Master by Miyuki Miyabe, and The Whale that Fell In Love with a Submarine by Akiyuki Nosaka... From Words Without Borders
Four short stories translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori can be read at Words Without Borders.