Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Japanese Tales Have a Real Air of Familiarity; English Speakers Can Now Enjoy the Work of One of Japan's Great Writers. DAVID WHETSTONE Talks to Translator Angus Turvill

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Japanese Tales Have a Real Air of Familiarity; English Speakers Can Now Enjoy the Work of One of Japan's Great Writers. DAVID WHETSTONE Talks to Translator Angus Turvill

Article excerpt

THERE was a do last week at the London office of the Japan Foundation, the Japanese government's cultural organisation, and a North East academic was at the heart of it.

Angus Turvill, who teaches at Durham University, has translated the short stories of a popular Japanese writer called Hisashi Inoue and this was the launch of the resulting book, Tales From a Mountain Cave.

Japanese readers know Inoue as the author of Shinshaku Tono Monogatari, a collection of stories set in the Kamaishi area of Japan which was devastated by the tsunami of March 2011. Out of a population of some 40,000, 1,250 people died.

Angus plans to donate royalties from sales of the book to projects designed to get the area back on its feet again.

"These stories are from the North East of Japan and I translated them when I was living in Jesmond," he says.

"I'd never been to that part of Japan but I did have a clear image of it. I took inspiration from Jesmond Dene and a few other places in the North East and, when I did go there, I found some similarities.

Kamaishi, he says, is an area of natural beauty with an industrial heritage. "It has got enormous mines nearby and was the birthplace of Japan's iron and steel industry.

"Japan's first Western-style blast furnace was built there in 1858 by a man called Takato Oshina. He was one of the men who came to Britain in 1872 as part of a very important mission called the Iwakura Mission."

The Japanese, keen to learn and develop, visited the Elswick engine works, examined the construction of guns, visited a colliery and had a river trip up the Tyne. They stayed in the Royal Station Hotel.

They then returned to Japan and started to build the foundations of an industry that would sustain it for years to come.

"The steel industry dominated Kamaishi until about 1988 when it closed down, a parallel with the North East of England where a similar thing happened," says Angus. …

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