American Stories (Modern Asian Literature Series)

American Stories (Modern Asian Literature Series)

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

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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.

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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 Cabin2. A Return Through the Meadow3. Atop the Hill4. The Inebriated Beauty5. Long Hair6. Spring and Autumn7. Lodging on a Snowy Night8. In the Woods9. Bad Company10. Old Regrets11. Rude Awakening12. Ladies of the Night13. January First14. Daybreak15. Two Days in Chicago16. The Sea in Summer17. Midnight at a Bar18. Fallen Leaves19. Chronicle of Chinatown20. Night Stroll21. A June Night's Dream22. A Night at Seattle Harbor23. Night Fog

Product Details

  • publication date: 23/04/2013
  • ISBN13: 9780231117913
  • Format: Paperback
  • Number Of Pages: 192
  • ID: 9780231117913
  • weight: 454
  • ISBN10: 0231117914

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