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On Familiar Terms: A journey across cultures

Donald Keene

13 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 1568360061 / ISBN 13: 9781568360065
From Dan Pope Books (West Hartford, CT, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

Kodansha (New York), 1994. First edition. Hardbound. New in dust jacket. A perfect unread copy. 0.0. Bookseller Inventory # 6024

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Bibliographic Details

Title: On Familiar Terms: A journey across cultures

Binding: Hardcover

Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included

Edition: F....

About this title


This is the intimate and inspiring story of one of the truly great cosmopolitans of our time. During an exceptional career spanning five decades, Donald Keene has brought the works of Japan's greatest writers to worldwide attention through his highly acclaimed writings, translations, and anthologies. On Familiar Terms is the deeply personal story of his remarkable life - from a Depression-era childhood through his wartime experiences as a naval intelligence officer in the Pacific, his early enchantment with the now-vanished world of old Kyoto, and the diverse and lasting friendships he made in New York, Japan, and England. In this poignant and engaging portrait of intellectual, spiritual, and personal growth, Donald Keene recalls his lifelong journey, including fascinating relationships with and illuminating anecdotes about such writers as Yukio Mishima, Yasunari Kawabata, Kenzaburo Oe, and Kobo Abe. This is a story of universal interest, of self-discovery among shifting cultural boundaries, and the making of a committed internationalist against the backdrop of a complex and restless world.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Charming memoir by prolific specialist in Japanese literature Keene (Travelers of a Hundred Ages, 1989, etc.), who seems to have found a culture that mirrored his character traits of introversion and flight into deep study. During the Depression, Keene won a four-year scholarship to Columbia, where he took up Chinese studies, then was led by a fellow student into the study of Japanese. Come Pearl Harbor, Keene volunteered for the Navy Language School at Berkeley. With no knowledge of warships or navigation, he entered the Pacific war as a Japanese language officer and was shipped as a lieutenant to Pearl Harbor. Stupefying boredom with useless translations led him to translating bloodsoaked diaries taken from dead Japanese soldiers on Guadalcanal and elsewhere, wherein he found an immense reservoir of feelings, while his duties censoring US sailors' letters revealed little but their desire to return home. Keene relished his free time among Japanese, Chinese, and Korean civilians in Honolulu and had absolutely no desire to go back to the States. At war's end, he was sent to China as a war-crimes investigator, a job he hated; then he granted himself a week's leave in Japan, which thrilled him, although he would not return there for another eight years. Back at Columbia, he found himself drawn to literary rather than philosophical Japanese writers. Later, in England on a scholarship to Cambridge, he taught conversational Japanese and remained abroad five years. His first published book disappeared unread, as did his second, though his third was a success. And at last the Ford Foundation sent him back to Japan, where he met Yukio Mishima, Yasunari Kawabata, Kenzaburo Oe, and ``Renaissance Man'' Kobo Abe. Keene complains of lukewarm or worse reviews of his monumental survey volume World Without Walls (1976)--but the Kirkus reviewer gave it the same high praise this memoir deserves as well. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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