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Home > Culture > Person of Distinguished Service to Waseda University Arts Takashi Atoda Exhibition -Do you know short stories?-

Culture

Person of Distinguished Service to Waseda University Arts Takashi Atoda Exhibition
―Do you know short stories?―

Sagiri Yamamoto
Cultural Affairs Division Cultural Planning Section

1.On holding the exhibition

Takashi Atoda Exhibition poster

This exhibition is being held to celebrate Takashi Atoda being recognized as the 28th Person of Distinguished Service to Waseda University Arts in 2011. The Person of Distinguished Service to Waseda Arts was established to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the university, and is bestowed to graduates of 70 years of age or older who have performed distinguished services in promoting the arts. 2012 marks the 29th award.

Takashi Atoda is a prominent author with many works whose activities cover many areas, and has a legion of fans. There, in holding this exhibition, we will, of course, honour his achievements and introduce his contributions to the university, as well as take up how his career up to now is utilized in his creations. That would be, borrowing Atoda's own words, "something", be it activity themes or individual topics, there are many. And we also pick up his thoughts on short stories, and by extension, Japanese, books and libraries.

2.Brief history

Waseda University School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I French Literature major 1960 graduation thesis "Amphirytron" essays -Moliere and Giraudoux-

Takashi Atoda was born on January 13, 1935 in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture (although he is generally said to have been born in Tokyo.) His father died when he was 16 and he increasingly studied under adversity. In 1954 he entered Waseda University's School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I Literature Department majoring in French literature, but in 1955 he contracted tuberculosis and temporarily withdrew from his course to spend 16 months recuperating. During this time, he frequently read short stories, and this became the foundation for his writing in years to come. For 11 years after graduating from university in 1961, as well as working as a high-ranking employee at the National Diet Library, he published works one after another.

He debuted in 1976 with Reizoko Yori Ai O Komete [With Love From the Fridge] , and in 1979, was awarded the Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Raiho-sha [The Visitor] , and the Naoki Prize for Naporeon Kyo [Napoleon Crazy] . He was appointed as a selection committee member for the Naoki Prize in 1995, and in the same year won the Eiji Yoshikawa Award for Shin Toroia Monogatari [The New Tale of Troy] . As well as successively being a member or official of various organizations such as Mystery Writers of Japan, the Japan PEN Club, the Agency for Cultural Affairs Cultural Advisory Panel, and the Characters Culture Promotion Organization, in 2001, along with his wife Keiko, he founded the group "Rodoku 21 no Kai", which advocates the charm of short stories through reading aloud, and gives a public performance every year. He was awarded the Purple Ribbon Medal in 2003, the Order of the Rising Sun in 2009, in 2010, as president of the Japan PEN Club, hosted the International PEN Convention Tokyo 2010, was recognized as Person of Distinguished Service to Waseda University Arts in 2011, and this year he has been appointed chief librarian of the newly reopened Yamanashi Prefectural Library, continuing his energetic work.

Main prize when winning the 32nd Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Raiho-sha, A bronze statue of Edgar Allan Poe by Mitsuyuki Goto, 1979

In his younger days, he was born a twin, but his younger brother died before their first birthday. That topic can be indirectly seen in works such as Yamihiko. His father ran a factory, and he had an uncle called Reizo Atoda who was a scholar of European history (Napoleon research) and worked as the ninth principal of the former No.2 High School (predecessor to Tohoku University.) From primary school to high school, Atoda lived as an evacuee in Tokyo and Nagaoka, and when his father died when he was 16, his family fell into destitution.

He belonged to the science club at junior high school and had an interest in natural science, but soon, he also gained an interest in literature. Although he wanted to study applied sciences, in 1954, Atoda entered Waseda University's School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I Literature Department and majored in French literature.

As you can see here, his interest in science also gave him insight for his creations. For example, the key to Ooki na Yume [Big Dreams] , the title of the lecture and public reading special event to be held at the exhibition on December 12 (Wed), lies in the Pythagorean theorem.

At Waseda University, Atoda worked part time to pay for his tuition fees and living expenses, and when he was 20, he underwent a medical check as part of a scholarship examination and was diagnosed with tuberculosis, resulting in him leaving school and being hospitalized. Over 16 months of recuperation, he fervently read Western short stories.

After recovering and returning to his studies, he joined the French Literature Society, whose members included Shinichi Ichikawa (professor emeritus at Waseda University), Shiroyasu Suzuki (poet, video artist), Masayuki Nishie (cultural anthropologist), and Kaoru Udo (poet), and put on theatrical performances. For his graduation research, Atoda discussed French writers Moliere and Giraudoux's dramas based on the Greek legend "Amphirytron". In his student life after his convalescence, he began to see the keywords "short story", "French literature", and "Greek legends".

After graduation he spent time in the Ministry of Education Librarian Training School before taking a post as a high-ranking employee at the National Diet Library in 1961. Here, the influence from his seniors, who were also scholars and carrying out book sorting led to his future writing and activities. Starting with his side job of writing, after Burakku Yuumoa Nyuumon [A Beginner's Guide to Black Humour] , which he published when he was 34, became a best seller, he debuted as a free writer.

3.Desire for short stories

As mentioned earlier, while he was in hospital being treated for tuberculosis, Atoda enthusiastically read western short stories, and this can be understood in a quote from his work, "The basics to novels usually come from reading short stories (the rest is omitted)" (from Tanpen Shosetu No Reshipi [Recipes for Short Stories] ).

Although he was a reader, he started writing, and then became to be called a "master of short stories." That obsession led to conveying the charm of short stories both inside and outside the country and studying short and long novels. Before long it was not only "reading", but "listening to short stories", and he was continuing in the form of public performances with "Rodoku 21 no Kai". He often mentions his obsession with short stories in his work and interviews, and this exhibition displays all his works so far, and the short stories, and by extension sentences and characters, are introduced in the form of quotes.

4.Obsession with libraries and books

Although Atoda aspired to be a newspaper reporter when he was a student, his employment opportunities were whittled down due to his medical history, and after attending the Ministry of Education Librarian Training School he took up a post as a high-ranking employee at the National Diet Library. He used his work and stock of knowledge gained during this time in his short stories, and even after becoming a professional writer he maintained a deep interest in words, books and libraries and kept a close relationship with the library, and among changes to library management and a falling number in libraries and specialists, he gave his thoughts on the harmful influences of those events and what kind of libraries he wants, and he still continues that today. In regards to characters and writing, he became a member of the Agency for Cultural Affairs Cultural Advisory Panel, and served as chairman from 2007 to 2011, and he also held the vice-chairman post for the Characters Culture Promotion Organization, a group that embodies the Act on Promotion of Children's Reading and the Act on Promotion of Character and Type Culture.

Then he was sounded out to be chief librarian in the renewal plans of the Yamanashi Prefectural Library, and was appointed to the post in April 2012, returning to work at a library for the first time in 40 years. The library opened on November 11th and aims to be a library familiar to the people in the prefecture.

5.Contributions to Waseda University

76th International PEN Convention Tokyo 2010, September 30 Foreign Correspondents' Club press conference
From the left, PEN International, Writers in Prison Committee Chairperson Marian Fraser, International PEN President John Ralston Saul, (then) Japan PEN Club President Takashi Atoda, and International PEN Managing Director Takeaki Hori (Photograph courtesy of Teruzo Sugiyama, Japan PEN Club, 2010)

Atoda's involvement with our university after his graduating includes taking up the position of visiting professor in the School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I and II in 2000, and giving courses such as "Structures and Conventions of Short Stories." From 2007, as a member of the Cultural Affairs Division advisory committee, he devoted himself to cultural promotion at Waseda University, and the International PEN Tokyo 2010 returning to Tokyo for the first time in 25 years, and with our university becoming the venue being a talking point is still fresh in our memories. Then, in 2011, he was named Person of Distinguished Service to Waseda Arts, and even today, he continues to offer his services to students and alumni in the form of advice on cultural activities, cooperation and lectures, and holding public recitals.

In addition to what has been introduced above, Atoda's exchanges with various people, recollections and memorabilia, and never-before-seen self-penned manuscripts and memorandums will also be on display. I hope you will grasp how he brings out that "something" which surrounds him in abundance, not only in his works, but also in his life, and it leads to you finding something even more wonderful.

And I also hope that you widen the array of Atoda short stories and novels that you read. Unfortunately there are some titles that are now out of print, but if that is the case, please use a library.

Finally, I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to all those involved in this exhibition.
※Titles have been omitted from names.

Exhibition information
Dates:
December 3, 2012 (Mon)- January 26, 2013 (Sat)
Venue:
125th Anniversary Room, Building No. 26 (Okuma Memorial Tower) 10F, Waseda University
Sponsor:
Waseda University Cultural Promotion Division

※Please visit the exhibition website for information on the exhibition, related events and enquiries.
http://www.wasedabunka.jp/event/exhn/archive/2012/ex125log_20121001.php

Also, for details and application information for the Takashi Atoda lecture and public reading, "Kaleidoscope of Novels ―Listen to 'Ookii na Yume (Big Dreams)'"―, a special event to be held at 16:30 on December 12 (Wed), please check the website below.
http://www.wasedabunka.jp/event/lecture/2012/news121212.php

Sagiri Yamamoto
Cultural Affairs Division Cultural Planning Section

Majored in cultural asset science. Took up her current position in April 2008 after working in art galleries and museums.