Narrow Road to Oku

ISBN-10: 4770020287

ISBN-13: 9784770020284

Edition: 1996

List price: $25.00
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Description:

In the account which he named The Narrow Road to Oku, Basho makes a journey lasting 150 days, in which he travels, on foot, a distance of 600 ri. This was three hundred years ago, when the average distance covered by travelers was apparently 9 ri per day, so it is clear that Basho, who was forty years old at the time, possessed a remarkably sturdy pair of walking legs. Nowadays with the development of all sorts of means of transportation, travel is guaranteed to be pleasant and convenient in every respect, so it's almost impossible for us to imagine the kind of journey Basho undertook, "drifting with the clouds and streams," and "lodging under trees and on bare rocks." During my countless re-readings of The Narrow Road to Oku, I would bear that in mind, and the short text, which takes up less than 50 pages even in the pocket-book edition, would strike me as much longer than that, and I would feel truly awed by Basho's 2,450-kilometer journey. I chose The Narrow Road to Oku as the theme of the exhibition marking the thirtieth anniversary of my career as an artist. As somebody who has been illustrating works from Japanese literature for many years, the subject naturally attracted and interested me. But once I'd embarked on the project, it wasn't long before I realized I'd chosen a more difficult and delicate task than I ever imagined, and I wanted to reprove myself for my naivete. Last year, to mark the centenary of Tanizaki Jun'ichiro's birth, I produced a set of 54 pictures for his translation of The Tale of Genji. This was a formidable undertaking, as I had to grapple with the achievement of a literary genius whom I had personally known. But if producing a single picture to represent each chapter in The Tale of Genji was a matter of selecting a particular "face," or "plane" to represent the whole, producing a picture to represent each haiku in The Narrow Road to Oku was without a doubt a matter of having to select one tiny "point"-a mere "dot." One misjudgment in my reading, and the picture would lose touch with the spirit of Basho's work, and end up simply as an illustration that happened to be accompanied by a haiku. I had to meticulously consider every word in those brief 17-syllable poems. Then, if I was fortunate, from the vast gaps and the densely packed phrases a numinous power would gather and inspire me: at times I felt as if I was experiencing what ancient people called the "kotadama," the miraculous power residing in words. A self-styled "beggar of winds and madness," Basho originated and refined a unique genre of fictional travel literature, which used poetry that enabled one to render, empty-handedly, all of creation. But Basho also left us the following poem: Journeying is the flower of elegance Elegance, the spirit of travelers long gone: The places seen and recorded by Saigyo and Sogi - All those are the heart of haikai. I believe that I could ask for no greater favor from my painter's brush than that I too be able to glean the merest fragment of what the saint of haiku Basho saw, and be able to reproduce it in my work. Miyata Masayuki
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Book details

List price: $25.00
Copyright year: 1996
Publisher: Kodansha America, Incorporated
Publication date: 4/15/1997
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 188
Size: 5.75" wide x 9.00" long x 0.75" tall
Weight: 0.946

Donald Keene was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 18, 1922. He received a bachelor's degree in 1942, a master's degree in 1947, and a doctoral degree in 1951 from Columbia University. During World War II, he served as an intelligence officer in the Navy and worked translating for Japanese prisoners. He taught at Columbia University for 56 years and was named the Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature in 1986 and University Professor Emeritus. Keene is considered to be a "Japanologist". He has written, translated, or edited numerous books in both Japanese and English on Japanese literature and culture including The Pleasures of Japanese Literature, Essays in Idleness, So Lovely a Country Will Never Perish: Wartime Diaries of Japanese Writers, Three Plays of Kobo Abe, Twenty Plays of the No Theater, and The Breaking Jewel. His awards include the Kikuchi Kan Prize of the Society for the Advancement of Japanese Culture, the Japan Foundation Prize and the Tokyo Metropolitan Prize. Soon after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, Keene retired and moved to Japan with the intention of living out the remainder of his life there. He acquired Japanese citizenship, and adopted a Japanese legal name. This required him to relinquish his American citizenship, as Japan does not permit dual citizenship.

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