American Stories (Modern Asian Literature Series)

American Stories (Modern Asian Literature Series)

By: Nagai Kafu (author), Mitsuko Iriye (translator)Hardback

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Nagai Kafu is one of the greatest modern Japanese writers, but until now his classic collection, American Stories, based on his sojourn from Japan to Washington State, Michigan, and New York City in the early years of the twentieth century, has never been available in English. Here, with a detailed and insightful introduction, is an elegant translation of Kafu's perceptive and lyrical account. Like de Tocqueville a century before, Kafu casts a fresh, keen eye on vibrant and varied America-world fairs, concert halls, and college campuses; saloons, the immigrant underclass, and red-light districts. Many of his vignettes involve encounters with fellow Japanese or Chinese immigrants, some of whom are poorly paid laborers facing daily discrimination. The stories paint a broad landscape of the challenges of American life for the poor, the foreign born, and the disaffected, peopled with crisp individual portraits that reveal the daily disappointments and occasional euphorias of modern life. Translator Mitsuko Iriye's introduction provides important cultural and biographical background about Kafu's upbringing in rapidly modernizing Japan, as well as literary context for this collection. In the first story, "Night Talk in a Cabin," three young men sailing from Japan to Seattle each reveal how poor prospects, shattered confidence, or a broken heart has driven him to seek a better life abroad. In "Atop the Hill," the narrator meets a fellow Japanese expatriate at a small midwestern religious college, who slowly reveals his complex reasons for leaving behind his wife in Japan. Caught between the pleasures of America's cities and the stoicism of its small towns, he wonders if he can ever return home. Kafu plays with the contradictions and complexities of early twentieth-century America, revealing the tawdry, poor, and mundane underside of New York's glamour in "Ladies of the Night" while celebrating the ingenuity, cosmopolitanism, and freedom of the American city in "Two Days in Chicago." At once sensitive and witty, elegant and gritty, these stories provide a nuanced outsider's view of the United States and a perfect entrance into modern Japanese literature.

About Author

Nagai Kafu (1879-1959) was a Japanese novelist whose translated works include Rivalry: A Geisha's Tale, Autumn Wind and Other Stories, American Stories, and During the Rains and Flowers in the Shades: Two Novellas. Mitsuko Iriye is an independent scholar working in the field of comparative literature.


1. Night Talk in a Cabin 2. A Return Through the Meadow 3. Atop the Hill 4. The Inebriated Beauty 5. Long Hair 6. Spring and Autumn 7. Lodging on a Snowy Night 8. In the Woods 9. Bad Company 10. Old Regrets 11. Rude Awakening 12. Ladies of the Night 13. January First 14. Daybreak 15. Two Days in Chicago 16. The Sea in Summer 17. Midnight at a Bar 18. Fallen Leaves 19. Chronicle of Chinatown 20. Night Stroll 21. A June Night's Dream 22. A Night at Seattle Harbor 23. Night Fog

Product Details

  • ISBN13: 9780231117906
  • Format: Hardback
  • Number Of Pages: 192
  • ID: 9780231117906
  • ISBN10: 0231117906
  • translations: Japanese

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