In this new biography of Masaoka Shiki, Donald Keene tells Shiki's story with a wonderful blend of brio and depth. Meticulously researched and beautifully written, the work delves into hitherto slighted aspects of Shiki's oeuvre and personality. Readers of Japanese and world literature will welcome this book for its rich portrait of one of modern Japan's most important writers.
The Winter Sun Shines In: A Life of Masaoka Shikiby Donald Keene
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Rather than resist the vast social and cultural changes sweeping Japan in the nineteenth century, the poet Masaoka Shiki (18671902) instead incorporated new Western influences into his country’s native haiku and tanka verse. By reinvigorating these traditional forms, Shiki released them from outdated conventions and made them more responsive to newer trends in artistic expression. Altogether, his reforms made the haiku Japan’s most influential modern cultural export.
Using extensive readings of Shiki’s own writings and accounts of the poet by his contemporaries and family, Donald Keene charts Shiki’s revolutionary (and often contradictory) experiments with haiku and tanka, a dynamic process that made the survival of these traditional genres possible in a globalizing world. Keene particularly highlights random incidents and encounters in his impressionistic portrait of this tragically young life, moments that elicited significant shifts and discoveries in Shiki’s work. The push and pull of a profoundly changing society is vividly felt in Keene’s narrative, which also includes sharp observations of other recognizable characters, such as the famous novelist and critic Natsume Soseki. In addition, Keene reflects on his own personal relationship with Shiki’s work, further developing the nuanced, deeply felt dimensions of its power.
This biography excels.
What People are saying about this
In Donald Keene's writing, there is an undeniable warmth and humanity that is often absent in much of our contemporary literary criticism. The general reader, even with little interest in haiku, will find this work illuminating and fascinating.
Toward the end of his life, the great haiku poet Basho emphasized the importance of an aesthetic quality he called hosomi, or 'lightness.' Donald Keene's biography of Masaoka Shiki has a lightness of touch akin to hosomi. With incisive judgment, Keene outlines the development of Shiki's views on tanka and haiku while also describing with touching immediacy the small yet pivotal events in the poet's life.
Meet the Author
Donald Keene is Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature and University Professor Emeritus at Columbia University. He is the author of more than thirty books, including So Lovely a Country Will Never Perish: Wartime Diaries of Japanese Writers; Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan; Frog in the Well: Portraits of Japan by Watanabe Kazan, 17931841; and Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 18521912, as well as a definitive multivolume history of Japanese literature.
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