The National Centre for Writing is to launch a three-year partnership with the Tadashi Yanai Initiative for Globalizing Japanese Humanities at UCLA, aiming to bring more Japanese writers to an English-language readership.
Working with Strangers Press, based at the University of East Anglia (UEA), the project will include Kyōkai, a series of five chapbooks, edited by Polly Barton and Asa Yoneda. The Kyōkai series will focus on writers who are often marginalised — linguistically or geographically — to provide an "alternative view of contemporary Japan". It follows the publication of Keshiki, a series of eight Japanese chapbooks.
An annual mentorship, the Yanai Initiative, will also be available to a Japanese-English translator, who will work with a mentor to develop their craft and network in the industry. In 2020-21, the Yanai Initiative supported the Japanese mentorship for the winner of the 2020 Harvill Secker Young Translator Prize, Jesse Kirkwood, who is being mentored by Polly Barton.
Kate Griffin, associate programme director at the National Centre for Writing, said: "This collaboration with the Yanai Initiative is very timely, given the increasing curiosity in the English-speaking world about contemporary writing from Japan. We will work with our partners and the cohort of literary translators to bring to the English-language readership an exciting range of new Japanese voices that are often marginalised, giving us fresh insight into contemporary Japan."
The partnership includes the British Centre for Literary Translation (BCLT). Bursaries will be available to support up-and-coming Japanese-English literary translators attending the BCLT online Summer School in July 2021.
Michael Emmerich, director of the Yanai Initiative, said: “The people at the National Centre for Writing and BCLT have done so much to promote translation and help emerging translators hone their talents. The increasing availability of exceptional translations of Japanese literature is a testament to the effectiveness of their approach, and I’m thrilled to be working with them on this long-term collaboration.”
Nathan Hamilton, m.d. of the UEA Publishing Project, said: "We are so pleased to be revisiting Japan with Strangers Press after our previous Keshiki series did so much to introduce a great selection of Japanese writers to anglophone readers. It's wonderful also to have the support and encouragement from the Yanai Initiative as an endorsement of what we're doing. We're looking forward to getting started on the new Kyōkai chapbooks.”
Kyoko Yoshida, author of Spring Sleepers, published as part of the first series of Japanese chapbooks, said: “Keshiki broadened my literary landscape through the collaboration with the National Centre for Writing and UEA. Its innovative format and the idea of a collection of chapbooks presents contemporary Japanese authors as a variety of unique voices, writing separately but together."
Translator and series editor Barton said: “I'm very happy to be a part of this project. It feels like a uniquely exciting moment for Japanese literature in the publishing industry, and I'm hoping this will be a chance to bring some new, strong, and diverse voices to the world of translated fiction.” Fellow translator and series editor Yoneda added: "We're delighted to be part of Strangers Press and NCW's commitment to publishing voices from around the world, and to work with the Yanai Initiative to build on the success of the beautiful and provocative Keshiki."
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