井の中の蛙

2/21/2007

Autobiographical Essays by Donald Keene

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 1:43 am

Yomiuri newspaper published a long series of autobiographical essays by Donald Keene which I somehow missed until today. Professor Keene is one of the most important Western scholars of Japanese literature of the past century and is still very active. Appropriately enough, his most recent work, published by Columbia University Press in 2006, is entitled Frog in the Well: Portraits of Japan by Watanabe Kazan, 1793-1841 (BF).

From the historian’s point of view, Keene’s own life and experiences are themselves of great interest. He served the US military as a Japanese translator and interpreter in World War II before resuming his academic studies after the war. Letters by Keene, Otis Cary and others published various as War Wasted Letters, Eyewitness to History, and From a Ruined Empire give us a fascinating look into the early postwar realities of Japan and East Asia. In these essays in Yomiuri Keene shares many more of his stories from his earliest childhood to his thoughts about old age.

I believe the essays were serialized in Japanese in the print version of Yomiuri (「私と20世紀のクロニクル」) but I can’t seem to find the full originals (Commentators in the Japanese blogosphere abound), so perhaps they are destined for publication in book form. You can find a full listing of the 49 essays in English here:

Chronicles of My Life in the 20th Century

Below I have excerpted a few of the passages in the articles that I read through this evening and found especially interesting…
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