William E. Naff, the distinguished scholar of Japanese literature widely known and highly regarded for his eloquent translations of the writings of Shimazaki Toson (1872-1943), spent the last years of his life writing a full-length biography of Toson. Virtually completed at the time of his death, The Kiso Road provides a rich and colorful account of this canonic novelist who, along with Natsume Soseki and Mori Ogai, formed the triumvirate of writers regarded as giants in Meiji Japan, all three of whom helped establish the parameters of modern Japanese literature. Professor Naff's biography skillfully places Toson in the context of his times and discusses every aspect of his career and personal life, as well as introducing in detail a number of his important but as yet untranslated works.
Toson's long life, his many connections with other important Japanese artists and intellectuals, his sojourn in France during World War I, and his later visit to South America, permit a biography of depth and detail that serves as a kind of cultural history of Japan during an often turbulent period. The Kiso Road, as approachable and exciting as any novel, with Toson himself as its complex protagonist, is arguably the most thorough account of any modern Japanese writer presently available in English.