Once and Forever: The Tales of Kenji Miyazawa / ISBN 9781681372600 / 270-page paperback from New York Review of Books Classics
Kenji Miyazawa is one of modern Japan’s most beloved writers, a great poet and a strange and marvelous spinner of tales, whose sly, humorous, enchanting, and enigmatic stories bear a certain resemblance to those of his contemporary Robert Walser. John Bester’s selection and expert translation of Miyazawa’s short fiction reflects its full range from the joyful, innocent “Wildcat and the Acorns,” to the cautionary tale “The Restaurant of Many Orders,” to “The Earthgod and the Fox,” which starts out whimsically before taking a tragic turn. Miyazawa also had a deep connection to Japanese folklore and an intense love of the natural world. In “The Wild Pear,” what seem to be two slight nature sketches succeed in encapsulating some of the cruelty and compensations of life itself.
"Now, finally, we have been given a collection of Miyazawa’s stories...Like the tales of Andersen and the Grimms, many of the stories in Once and Forever may appeal to children: the sort of thoughtful, dark-minded children who like Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. But adults will be the primary audience for the shivers of disturbance these stories send up the spine….for readers who relish the disturbing material of fairy tale, the specificity and surprise of tanka, collisions of the everyday with the supernatural and glimpses of Japan right on the brink of industrialization, this English volume of Kenji Miyazawa’s odd, masterly stories will be a delight."—Emily Barton, The New York Times Book Review
Kenji Miyazawa (1896–1933) was born in Iwate, one of the northernmost prefectures in Japan. In high school, he studied Zen Buddhism and developed a lifelong devotion to the Lotus Sutra, a major influence on his writing. After graduating from an agricultural college, he moved to Tokyo to begin his writing career but had to return home to care for a sick sister. He remained in his home in Iwate for the rest of his life. One of his best-known works is the novel Night on the Galactic Railroad, which was adapted into anime in the late twentieth century, as were many of his short stories. Much of his poetry is still popular in Japan today.