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Prof. Dr. Jeffrey Angles (Western Michigan University): Resurrecting Orikuchi Shinobu’s The Book of the Dead

20.06.2017 | 12:00

Shisha no sho (The Book of the Dead), completed in 1943 by the writer and ethnologist Orikuchi Shinobu (1887-1953), holds an undisputed position as one of the most important Japanese novels of the twentieth century, inspiring many re-printings and adaptations, including an opera, an animated film, and manga. Loosely inspired by the tale of Isis and Osiris from ancient Egypt, the novel is a sweeping, gothic tale set in in eighth-century Japan that describes the love between an inquisitive noblewoman (based on the legendary figure of Chūjōhime) and a resurrected ghost (based on the historical prince Ōtsu). Many scholars have discussed its bold, experimental application of modernist narrative technique to the world of the ancient Japanese past, but because the plot is so enigmatic and open-ended, critical interpretations of the text have varied widely.

In this talk, Jeffrey Angles discusses the findings he made while producing his recent critical, annotated translation of the novel into English. He argues that this novel is not only a remarkable story, it is also a remarkable historical artifact, considering that it was produced in the midst of the fervent nationalism and intense censorship of World War II. In the novel, Orikuchi depicts Japanese sensibilities against the backdrop of the rise of the early Japanese state, but in his mysterious text, he has hidden a number of subtle parallels to his own moment in time that reveal potentially critical overtones. This talk will untangle the complex textual history of this novel, reveal some of Orikuchi’s influences, and discuss the potentially political dimensions of this classic piece of literature.

Jeffrey ANGLES (1971- ) is a poet, translator, and professor of Japanese literature at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.

His collection of original Japanese-language poetry Watashi no hizukehenkōsen (My International Date Line), published by Shichōsha in 2016, won the highly coveted Yomiuri Prize for Literature, an honor accorded to only a few non-native speakers since the award began in 1949. He is the first American ever to win the Yomiuri Prize for a book of poetry.

His work as a scholar of modern Japanese literature and cultural history is visible in numerous publications and articles written in both English and Japanese. Most important among these are the monographs Writing the Love of Boys (University of Minnesota Press) and These Things Here and Now: Poetic Responses to the March 11, 2011 Disasters (Josai University).

In addition, he has published dozens of translations of Japan’s most important modern authors and poets. He believes strongly in the role of translators as activists, and much of his career has focused on the translation into English of socially engaged, feminist, or queer writers. Among his numerous book-length translations are Forest of Eyes: Selected Poems of Tada Chimako (University of California Press), Killing Kanoko: Selected Poems of Itō Hiromi (Action Books), Wild Grass on the Riverbank by Itō Hiromi (Action Books), and Twelve Views from the Distance by Mutsuo Takahashi (University of Minnesota Press). His most recent translation is an annotated, critical edition of the modernist classic The Book of the Dead by Orikuchi Shinobu (University of Minnesota Press).

His translation of Tada Chimako won both the U.S.-Japan Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature and the Landon Translation Prize from the American Academy of Poets. He has also won competitive grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the PEN Club of America.


Zeit & Ort

20.06.2017 | 12:00

Ostasiatisches Seminar
Hittorfstr. 18 (Neubau)
Raum 1.36
14195 Berlin