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The First Modern Japanese: The Life of Ishikawa Takuboku

Donald Keene

978 0 231 17972 0
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Publication date:
27 September 2016

Full description: 

Thousands of books and monographs have been devoted to the poet and critic Ishikawa Takuboku (1886-1912). Although he died at the age of twenty-six and wrote many of his best-known poems in the space of a few years, his name is familiar to every literate Japanese. His early death added to the sad romance of the unhappy poet, but there has been no satisfactory biography of his life or career, even in Japanese, and only a small part of his writings have been translated. His mature poetry was based on the work of no predecessor, and he left no disciples. He stands unique. Takuboku's most popular poems, especially those with a humorous overlay, are often read and memorized, but his diaries and letters, though less familiar, contain rich and vivid glimpses of the poet's thoughts and experiences. They reflect the outlook of an unconstrained man who at times behaved in a startling or even shocking manner. Despite his misdemeanors, Takuboku is regarded as a national poet, all but a saint to his admirers, especially in the regions of Japan where he lived. His refusal to conform to the Japan of the time drove him in striking directions and ranked him as the first poet of the new Japan.

Table of contents: 

1. Takuboku, Modern Poet2. Takuboku in Tokyo3. Takuboku the Schoolteacher4. Exile to Hokkaido5. Hakodate and Sapporo6. Takuboku in Otaru7. A Winter in Kushiro8. Poetry or Prose?9. Takuboku Joins the Asahi10. The Romaji Diary11. The Sorrow of Takuboku and Setsuko12. Failure and Success13. Takuboku on Poetry14. The High Treason Trial15. The Last Days16. Takuboku's Life After DeathNotesBibliographyIndex


Donald Keene is Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature and University Professor Emeritus at Columbia University. He is the author and translator of more than thirty books on Japanese literature and culture. His Columbia University Press books include The Winter Sun Shines In: A Life of Masaoka Shiki (2013), So Lovely a Country Will Never Perish: Wartime Diaries of Japanese Writers (2010), Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan (2009), Frog in the Well: Portraits of Japan by Watanabe Kazan, 1793-1841 (2006), and Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852-1912 (2002), as well as a definitive multivolume history of Japanese literature.




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