By Genzō Sarashina
Translated by Dr Nadine Willems with Paul Rossiter
Published by Isobar Press
In this talk, Dr Nadine Willems discusses the poetry of Genzō Sarashina as both historical document and literary expression.
Kotan Chronicles, a collection of texts translated into English for the first time, takes the reader into the lives of the Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido, and their interaction with Japanese settlers in the 1920s and 1930s, a period when the traditional world of the kotan, or Ainu village, was being destroyed by the rapid development of the island.
Sarashina Genzō, a second-generation settler born in the town of Teshikaga in 1904 lived in close proximity to the Ainu. With a powerful and distinctive voice, his poetry probes this extraordinary cultural encounter in Japan’s far north, also depicting the beauty of the Hokkaido landscape and the back-breaking work required to survive there in an era of economic hardship.
Dr Willems will show how literature acted not only as a subtle witness to changing times, but also a means of political resistance. Sarashina’s poems were translated in collaboration with Paul Rossiter, a poet in his own right, who will contribute to the lecture from the perspective of his own field.
Kotan Chronicles: Selected Poems, 1928-1943 will be available in both hardback (£15) and paperback (£10) at this event.
More information on the book is available here.
About the contributors
Dr Nadine Willems
Dr Nadine Willems, a Belgian national, worked in media and business in Tokyo for more than fifteen years before returning to academia in 2008. She obtained her PhD in History from the University of Oxford in 2015 and joined the University of East Anglia as lecturer in Japanese history in 2016. She specializes in the intellectual and cultural history of modern Japan. She has written about early twentieth-century revolutionary connections between Europe and East Asia, and the development of the discipline of geography in Japan. Her research interests extend to the history of ethnography, farmers’ movements and proletarian literature. Kotan Chronicles is her first book of translated poetry.
Paul Rossiter, born in Cornwall in 1947, has lived in Japan since 1981. He is Professor Emeritus of Language and Information Sciences of the University of Tokyo, Komaba, where he taught for seventeen years until he retired in 2012. The following year he founded Isobar Press, which is based in Tokyo and London, and which specializes in publishing both English-language poetry from Japan and English translations of modern Japanese poetry; Kotan Chronicles is the press’s twentieth publication. He has published seven collections of his own poetry with Isobar and other presses, the most recent being The Painting Stick (2005), From the Japanese (2013), World Without (2015), Seeing Sights (2016) and Temporary Measures (2017).