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Realm of the Dead (Japanese Literature Series) Hardcover – 1 May 2006

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 229 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press; Tra edition (1 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564784479
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564784476
  • Product Dimensions: 23.3 x 16.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,212,291 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


masterful fiction' -Todd Shimoda, Asian Review of Books

About the Author

Hyakken Uchida (1889-1971) was born in Okayama to a family of sake brewers whose business later went bankrupt. He started submitting his creative writing to magazines while still in secondary school and came to greatly admire the novelist Soseki Natsume. In 1911 he met Soseki, then in the hospital for a stomach ulcer, thereafter becoming his disciple. Following graduation from college he taught at various institutions, including the army academy and Hosei University, but abandoned his teaching career after 1934. His major works include the short-story anthologies Realm of the Dead and Triumphant March into Port Arthur (both tr. 2006 under the title Realm of the Dead); Tokyo shojin (Tokyo in Ruins), a painstakingly detailed depiction of life in Tokyo during and immediately after World War II; Aho ressha (Idiot Train), a series of humorous short stories about train travel; and Gansaku wagahai wa neko de aru (The Counterfeit "I Am a Cat").

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Good translation 28 Feb. 2010
By chunyukuo - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Uchida Hyakken's short stories are so similar it's hard to read this book all at once. The monotony of Hyakken's oneiric portraits leave the reader wondering what he is missing; they are all the less satisfying given their apparent lack of closure.

What this book is really missing, however, is more insight from the translator. Dinitto is a respected scholar of 20th-century Japanese literature yet doesn't provide much explanation of these seemingly similar stories. That really is a shame, because what appears to be the collection's most obvious shortcoming may in fact be a part of the author's craft. Was there something to be said about Hyakken's style or tone?

The author is known as "the foremost innovator of Japanese modernism," yet through this book I cannot see why he is remembered as an author. What is lost in translation? Why are his pieces so similar?
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Haunting, lyric 6 April 2007
By Sudo Nimh - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I've never come across anything like it in English. A haunting blend of dream and reality. The reader is always a little off-balance. It has some of the flavor of other magical realism -- Italo Calvino, Alain Robbe-Grillet and Murakami perhaps -- but through a glass much more darkly. Having read the other, negative review that preceded this one, I would caution against trying to read too much into the stories. You're stepping into an Interzone, the usual rules don't apply.
3 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Crazy little thing: I hated it 3 Jan. 2007
By J. Holt - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been reading Japanese literature in translation and in the original for 10+ years now. When a colleague encouraged me to read Uchida Hyakken in the original (the "Kudan" story that appears in this collection, BTW), I loved it. It was so quirkly, but so human. Weird considering the story is about a beastie that is...well, not human. (Or is he?) I liked Uchida and vowed to read more of the author in the original, but didn't get around to it.

Then I came across this volume of translated stories. I'm generally more of a short-story reader than a reader of novels. I thought I would like it. Boy was I disappointed. My reading group and I agreed that this book is hard to get through. After the 3rd or 4th story, you feel like you're a hamster on a treadmill. This is no fault of the translator I think: she has arranged the translated stories in the exact order the author originally intended for his two short-story collections. After a while, you're going "Ok, I get it: dreams are weird. We're losing our humanity in modern times." Etc.

I regretfully have to say that I will pass on all future Uchida Hyakken works (in Japanese or English). Perhaps another Japanese author of the fantastic will satisfy me. Akutagawa Ryunosuke has a new book of translations coming out; Izumi Kyoka recently got translated into another volume; I'd also like to see Yumeno Kyusaku appear in English. For now, I will stick to a diet of mundane reality over flights of fancy like REALM OF THE DEAD.
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