The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories


452 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 0-19-283304-9
DDC 895.6




Edited by Theodore W. Goossen
Reviewed by Patricia Morley

Patricia Morley is professor emerita of English and Canadian studies at
Concordia University, and the author of Kurlek, Margaret Laurence: The
Long Journey Home, and As Though Life Mattered: Leo Kennedy’s Story.


Theodore Goossen is a translator, broadcaster, and critic who teaches
Japanese literature and culture at York University. This fine collection
of 35 stories, which span Japan’s modern era, begins with a survey in
which he identifies five “generations” of modern Japanese writers:
trail-blazers such as Mori Ogai and Natsume Soseki, who faced the
daunting task of creating new concepts such as “love” and
“individualism” for the new Meiji-era society; “settlers” in the
cosmopolitan Taisho era (1912–26), who had access to Western masters
such as Flaubert, Maupassant, Chekhov, and Poe; “wanderers” who in
the 1930s and 1940s entered a “shifting world where personal and
artistic survival meant keeping one’s head down, and staying on the
move”; survivors; and present-day “entertainers” like Yoshimoto
Banana who explore the paradoxes of modern life, often in a light and
playful fashion.

The selections are divided into five groups: stories of self, the water
trade, love and obsession, legends and fairy tales, and political and
social commentary. Unlike many anthologists of Japanese writings,
Goossen includes stories by women writers such as Enchi Fumiko and
Tsushima Yuko.

This is an excellent and comprehensive anthology of stories from a
literary tradition that deserves to be much better known in the West.


“The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,