Trying to sift through decades-old Japanese literature can be a bit of a challenge, and finding works that really stand out is even harder still. But when I stumbled upon Masao Yamakawa (山川 方夫) some months back I knew I had really found something special.
Typically I’m the type of person who enjoys stories that step away a little from reality, whether it is an eerie mystery, epic fantasy, or science fiction piece. But Yamakawa manages to write about everyday situations with (mostly) everyday people in a unique light that really caught my attention. I think it has something to do with how his gritty dialogue really sounds like something you might overhear on the back streets of Japan, and his portrayal of characters’ emotions in a brutally honest fashion, even when not socially appropriate.
After releasing a few of Yamakawa’s short stories in the first volume (and getting some positive feedback on those), I decided to try and tackle a slightly longer single work: “The Limits of Acting” (演技の果て), one of Yamakawa’s stories that was nominated for the well-known Akugatawa prize.
As with many of my other books, this release includes both English and English/Japanese parallel versions, the latter for Japanese learners. Due to the length and subject matter (which can get a bit meditative and philosophical at times) this novella is a bit more difficult than those in the first volume, so if you want to practice reading Japanese I would start with those first.