cover of book

Kafu the Scribbler: The Life and Writings of Nagai Kafu, 1897–1959
by Edward Seidensticker
University of Michigan Press, 1990
Paper: 978-0-939512-46-1
Library of Congress Classification PL812.A4Z88 1990
Dewey Decimal Classification 895.6342


Kafū the Scribbler is neither pure biography nor pure criticism nor yet a pure anthology, but a blending of the three. It is an introduction to Nagai Kafū and his city, accompanied by a fairly generous sampling from his works. Marleigh Ryan writes:

“In this book Edward Seidensticker presents a unique combination of biography and literary criticism by skillfully interweaving details of the life of Nagai Kafū with studies of his writing. With quotations of from Kafū’s fiction and nonfiction alike, Seidensticker is able to reconstruct many incidents in the author’s life which had previously been little understood. The latter half of the book is given over to translations of short stories and to selections from two novels and a journal. Seidensticker has thoughtfully given cross references to the material in both parts of the book which enable the reader to handle this wealth of material with some dexterity.

“Seidensticker’s skill as a translator is so well established that it seems almost unnecessary to comment on it further here but one cannot help being impressed by his rendering of Kafū’s lyrical style. As we realize when reading the critical material, there is remarkably little plot or character development in Kafū’s fiction. His position as leading modern writer is dependent to a considerable degree upon the beauty and grace of his style, and we are fortunate indeed to have such masterful translations as these to convey that style.”*

*Ryan, Marleigh. Journal of the American Oriental Society 88, no. 3 (1968): 624. doi:10.2307/596924.

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