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Tokuyoshi Hiraoka and Waseda Bungaku

Park Munsun
Waseda Bungaku Editorial Department

Founded by Shoyo Tsubouchi in 1891, Waseda Bungaku, the oldest literary magazine currently in publication, has repeatedly suspended and revived publication a number of times throughout its 123 year history. The history of Waseda Bungaku was covered in our last edition in Associate Professor Makato Ichikawa’s Waseda, literature and “Waseda Bungaku”. In this essay, I would like to touch upon the late Tokuyoshi Hiraoka, who worked as the 8th publisher and editor (1976-1997) during the ups and downs of Waseda Bungaku.

Tokuyoshi Hiraoka (1929-2005)

Tokuyoshi Hiraoka (1929-2005), after graduating from the Department of French Literature, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Waseda University, completed his Doctor’s program at the Faculty of French Literature, Graduate School of Letters, Arts and Sciences. While teaching at Waseda as a scholar of French literature, he is also renowned as the first person to translate works ranging from those by 19th century French greats Balzac and Merimee, to the experimental literature, known as Nouveau Roman, of Alain Robbe-Grillet, Claude Simon, and Nathalie Saurraute etc. Hiraoka was awarded the Paul Claudel Award for his Japanese translation of Nobel prize laureate Claude Simon’s The Flanders Road, and has also translated many others including Missing Person by Patrick Modiano, this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Balzac’s Old Goriot, Zola’s Nana, Merimee’s Carmen, Nathalie Saurraute’s The Golden Fruits, Marguerite Duras’ The Ravishing of Lol Stein, and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s La Reprise.

His works were not limited to the research and translation of French literature. In addition, he became a critic of Japanese literature and compiled Transformation and Trial, The Novel theory of Labyrinth, and The Reasons Behind Literature, as well as being, as a novelist, a nominee in the 87th and 90th editions of the Akutagawa Prize for The Disappearing Chimney and The Red Poppy Flower.

The Sleet Symbol – From Masuji Ibuse to Tan Onuma Tokuyoshi Hiraoka (Waseda Bungakukai)

Acacia Claude Simon, translated by Tokuyoshi Hiraoka (Hakusuisha)

Missing Person Patrick Modiano, translated by Tokuyoshi Hiraoka (Hakusuisha)

In the seventh series of Waseda Bungaku, Hiraoka, as a member of the editorial committee, was involved in page layout with Waseda graduate writers Yuichi Takai, Meisei Goto and Shun Akiyama, under the guidance of editor, Professor Yoshiakira Shinjo, who was known for his translations of Andre Gide. Professor Yoshiakira Shinjo is also the teacher of Hiraoka. With the suspension of the seventh series on the retirement of Professor Shinjo (January 1975 edition), Hiraoka embarked on restarting the eight series in May of the following year.

Several years earlier, with the 1966 structural organization reform of the Waseda University School of Letters, Arts and Sciences (I and II), the major-specific entrance system was changed to one where you advanced to a major after two years of study. With this, the School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I, with the aim of “providing basic training for those aspiring to be writers, critics or literary journalists” came into existence in 1968, and in 1970, the “literature major course” in the School of Letters Arts, and Sciences II (now the literature and journalism course in the School of Culture, Media and Society) was born. Hiraoka played a central role in this establishment, and from 1970 to 1978 was employed as Director of the literature major course in School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I. Past students of Hiraoka include Kaoru Kurimoto, Toshiyuki Horie, Yoko Ogawa, and Mitsuyo Kakuta.

All being Waseda students at the time, the female university student writer boom was said to have started with the publication in Waseda Bungaku of Noriko Minobe’s I Can’t Rest My Chin In My Hands Anymore, Yukiko Mitsuishi’s Diamonds Can’t Be Scratched and Rie Tanaka’s Off to Men With a Good Night. In the eight series of Waseda Bungaku, an editorial committee system was employed, and middle standing literary critics and writers Shun Akiyama, Meisei Goto and Tetsuro Miura were working on the committee at the beginning of the restart. Heading into the 1980s, the committee was centered on writers in their 30s such as So Aono, Yoji Arakawa, Masahiro Mita, Wahei Tatematsu and Yasuki Fukushima, with names like Kenji Nakagami and Haruki Murakami also appearing. Tumultuous committee meetings were held every month, and radical works from both within Japan and abroad were published.

Tenth Waseda Bungaku Vol.5 (2012) 24th Wasda Bungaku Prize for New Writers Edition

Hiraoka was also extremely enthusiastic toward the discovery of new writers, and in 1984 established the Waseda Bungaku Newcomers Award. Previous winners of the award include Ryuji Morita, Eri Makino, Toyoaki Mukai, Hidenori Ohisa, and Masahiko Abe. The Newcomers Award has continued in the current tenth series, with Natsuko Kuroda winning the 24th edition with her work ab Coral, which was also awarded the 148th Akutagawa Prize. Michael Emmerich currently works on the screening committee which is in the process of selection process for the 25th rendition of the Newcomers Award.

After Hiraoka’s death, based on donations from his family, the Kendama Fund was setup at Waseda Bungaku with the aim of supporting the writing and progress of enthusiastic and experimental creative works by young writers. The name of the fund is taken from the words “literature is a kendama”, which Hiraoka often said during his life. The first work to benefit from the Kendama Fund was Myself and a Toothache by Mieko Kawakami (Tenth series preparatory edition Wasda Bungaku 0 (2007)), which caught a great deal of attention as a nominee for the 137th Akutagawa Prize. In the same year, Kawakami won the 1st Waseda Univesity Tsubouchi Shoyo Award Incentive Prize, and the 138th Akutagawa Prize for Breasts and Eggs the following year. She has become a leader for modern Japanese literature.

To commemorate the achievements of Hiraoka, the Hiraoka Tokuyoshi Bunko (Hiraoka Tokuyoshi Library) was opened on the grounds of his country retreat in Oiwake, Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture in 2009.
At the opening, family members gave the following words. “On May 18, 2009, the fourth anniversary of Tokuyoshi Hiraoka’s death, this humble library has been opened. (Omission) This library houses original works related to French literature, Japanese literature and translations. We hope that, with this opening, his feelings can be conveyed, even a little, through this library, providing lifelong support for young people with aspirations in literature.

Hiraoka Tokuyoshi Bunko

A passage from one of his translated works is engraved in a glass monument.

“You won’t be able to come back. Don’t come up so fast. If you do so, go quickly. What do you think is on the other side? Go around without taking a break, it won’t take long. You won’t be able to come back. Don’t come up so fast. You’ve got enough time to go around.” (From Alain Robbe-Grillet’s The Road Home in Towards a New Novel)

Scene from a lecture. On clear days, they are held in the garden.

Every summer, from the following August in 2010, writers with close connections to Hiraoka or Waseda Bungaku hold a lecture. The lectures have been delivered by literature major Mitsuyo Kakuta who studied under Hiraoka in 2010, fellow literature major and Hiraoka’s student Masahiko Katsuya, in 2011, Kiyoshi Shigematsu in 2012, who applied to a student committee member after seeing a poster advertising for “Waseda Bungaku Student Committee Staff, Unpaid, Dinner Provided”, and had an interview with Hiraoka, later to work on the editorial desk, and the previously mentioned Natsuko Kuroda in 2013, who all talked about their relationships with Hiraoka and their own literature, and being well-received every time. Masao Nemoto, an Hiraoka’s student who worked as an editor for Waseda Bungaku as a student editorial committee member during his days at Waseda University, and has also served as editor of Kaien (Storm Petrel) and Yasei Jidai (Wild Era), worked as emcee.

This summer’s lecture, “Sleet Literature”, given by Toshiyuki Horie

And this summer, Toshiyuki Horie gave a lecture titled “Sleet Literature”. Horie, an excellent translator, French literature researcher and writer, went off the topic of his own novels and literature, recounted pleasant times and told of episodes such as, when he was a high school student, the literary magazine Kaien was established, serializing the new work of Masuji Ibuse, who Horie had “thought of as a literary person he only read about in paperback novels and textbooks”, and after entering Waseda University, he bought Kaien, in order to read the continuation of the novel, which also happened to feature The Disappearing Chimney, becoming an unexpected first contact with Hiraoka, and taking a class on reading Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Djinn, while translating each French word.

The Hiraoka Tokuyoshi Bunko is open to the public during the summer (please visit the home page for details regarding opening times and dates 【Link to Hiraoka Tokuyoshi Bunko page.
Be sure to visit in the summer while you are strolling through the area.

Quarterly renewal issue Waseda Bungaku 2014 Autumn Edition (Publisher: Waseda Bungakukai Seller: Chikuma Shobo) on sale in bookstores nationwide. The next issue of the tenth series, Waseda Bungaku 2014 Winter Edition, is due to be released on November 7.

Since the start of the tenth series of Waseda Bungaku in 2008, publications have continued to be irregular, but with a major overhaul in the summer, it has become a quarterly magazine.

Please keep your expectations high for Waseda Bungaku in the future.

Park Munsun
Waseda Bungaku Editorial Department

Park Munsun graduated from the School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I majoring in literature. He works at the Waseda University Editorial Department.