Source: Japan America
It is no secret that Western audiences love Japanese pop culture. From manga to J-pop and anime to collector's items, many different aspects of the Land of the Rising Sun's artistic creations have found success overseas. However, Japanese literature still remains a largely untapped market in the West, even with writers such as Haruki Murakami, author of last year's bestseller 1Q84, finding success on an international scale. What's big in Japan is more often not also big in America, and vice versa, so both Japanese and American publishers are looking for new ways to bring the up and coming works of Japanese writers to libraries around the world.
University of Tokyo professor and prominent translator of American literature Motoyuki Shibata was familiar with the practice of developing literary magazines where the works of writers are collected and published for audiences to enjoy, but realized Japan had no similar publications of its own. In 2008, he developed his own magazine named Monkey Business after the Chuck Berry classic, and began seeking the works of Japanese writers, both new and established, to feature in his publication. Shibata also used his expertise in translating from English to provide translations of the works of American writers in the magazine.
Ted Gossen, a professor and translator from York University in Toronto, Canada, also observed the lack of Japanese literature being spread on a wider scale and contacted Shibata about the possibility of introducing an international version of Monkey Business. Teaming up with New York-based literary magazine A Public Space and Japan's Nippon Foundation, the two men distributed the first issue of Monkey Business International throughout America and Canada in 2011, and have released a new issue every year, with the next debuting this spring.
Source: The Daily Figment
The magazine includes short stories, poems including haiku and tanka, original manga adaptations, and interviews with writers such as Haruki Murakami. According to Shibata in an interview with Poets & Writers, he does consider what will appeal to Western audiences when he chooses the works in Monkey Business International, but mostly follows his gut as to what he and the other Japanese publishers enjoy. Many Japanese writers, he suggests, already have an interest in the themes of American literature, including democracy, individualism, and the creation of identity.
With Americans becoming more and more interested in the potentials of foreign literature, A Public Space and Monkey Business International are looking to expand their activities with several different business ventures. A Public Space is planning on pairing with a Chinese literary magazine in hopes of making it international, and with the help of the Asia Society and the Nippon Foundation, they intend to host Monkey Business events in New York as well as Tokyo.
Source: The Nippon Foundation
The Nippon Foundation has also developed the “Read Japan” project as a way to bring Japanese literature to foreign audiences through partnerships with libraries, publishers, authors, and translators. They currently support translator training through the University of East Anglia and University of London in England, and have several projects they are recommending for translation and distribution around the globe.
With these efforts being put in motion, it may not be long before we see Japanese classics on the bookshelves of our local libraries!
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