Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Beholdmyswarthyface Japanese Literature Examination (Round 4)

This just in from Cniva Albinus:

Hey Beholdmyswarthyface,

I recently heard that Round 4 of the Beholdmyswarthyface Japanese Literature Exam is being circulated among your friends and colleagues. I was hoping you could post it online so that we--the readers of your blog--could also take it. I didn't score too well on the third one, so I was hoping to do better on this round. Thank you. -Cniva Albinus.


I don't know how you heard about this, but sure thing. Here's the test. If you'd like us to grade it, just send your answers to our email address in PDF format. Good luck! And remember, the test was intended for undergraduates, so it might be too easy for you. Best, Sally Suzuki

Final Exam
***Removed to prevent future cheating. -Sally Suzuki, Jan 4, 2012***

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ishikawa Jun's "xxx xxxxxx" (1935)

This just in from Swarthyface:
Posted below is the latest draft of my translation of Ishikawa Jun's xxxxx (『xx』, 1935).  The plot can be summarized as follows:
Guy (the story's narrator and protagonist who in many ways resembles the real-life Ishikawa Jun) wanders around a NE suburb of Tokyo in search of the axis mundi, discovers that there is no such thing, forces self to stop dabbling in poetry, begins a disappearing act (by which he sheds, one by one, the various layers of self, starting with emotions, in an effort to reduce self to pure cogito), finds only a void at self's center, attempts suicide, fails, is reduced to pure physicality, ravishes his wife's sister (suggesting the possibility of spiritual redemption through the flesh/barbarization/daraku), confesses that he suffers from a condition known as "nympholepsy," and abruptly cuts narrative off in media res.

To have the text read to you, click on this I-speech button:

And finally, I am indebted to the Beholdmyswarthyface Foundation for the grant that made experimental work on this translation possible. I am also indebted to Professors xxxxxx and xxxxxxxx, both of whom read my translation against the original, and made many helpful suggestions.
(***Removed to prevent plagiarism, Sally Suzuki, 1/25/12)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Press Release for a New Novel by Levy Hideo

This just in from Meredith Howard, Publicity Director, Columbia University Press:
Dear Behold My Swarthy Face,

Columbia University Press is pleased to announce the publication of A Room Where the Star Spangled Banner Cannot Be Heard: A Novel in Three Parts by Levy Hideo.

Set against the political and social upheavals of the 1960s, A Room Where the Star-Spangled Banner Cannot Be Heard tells the story of Ben Isaac, a blond-haired, blue-eyed American youth living with his father at the American consulate in Yokohama. Chafing against his father's strict authority and the trappings of an America culture that has grown increasingly remote, Ben flees home to live with Ando, his Japanese friend. R! efusing to speak English with Ben, Ando shows the young American the way to Shinjuku, the epicenter of Japan's countercultural movement and the closest Ben has ever felt to home.

From the vantage point of a privileged and alienated "outsider" (gaijin), Levy's narrative, which echoes events in his own life, beautifully captures a heady, eventful moment in Japanese history. It also richly renders the universal struggle to grasp the full contours of one's identity. Wandering the streets of Shinjuku, Ben can barely decipher the signs around him or make sense of the sounds reaching his ears. Eventually, the symbols and sensations take root, and he becomes one with Japanese language and culture. Through his explorations, Ben breaks free from English and the constraints of being a gaijin. Levy's coming-of-age novel is an eloquent elegy to a lost time.

Levy Hideo is the pen name of Ian Hideo Levy. He is the first Westerner to become a novelist in Japanese. Born in 1950 to a Jewish father and a Polish mother, he spent his childhood in Taiwan and Hong Kong. He taught Japanese literature at Princeton and Stanford, and received a National Book Award for his translations from the ancient poetry anthology, Man'yoshu (The Ten Thousand Leaves). Since moving to Tokyo in 1990, he has published more than a dozen volumes of fiction and nonfiction spanning America, Japan and China. The winner of numerous Japanese literary and cultural awards, including the prestigious Osaragi Prize, he has become a major international voice in contemporary Japanese literature.

To find out more about this work or to purchase it click here.

With best wishes,
Meredith Howard, Publicity Director, Columbia University Press