Published annually, the nascent literary journal Monkey Business connects an English-reading public—whose familiarity with modern Japanese literature may be limited to Haruki Murakami, Yukio Mishima, and Keiji Nakazawa—to a wide range of contemporary if not as well known Japanese writers.
The journal, supported by the Nippon Foundation and A Public Space, is the international offshoot of the same-name publication started in Tokyo in 2008. The second issue was published earlier this year, and just like the first volume, it is a delight. Translations of major authors and rising talents share space with work from established U.S. writers (Stuart Dybek, Rebecca Brown, Barry Yourgrau). There are poems and nonfiction, short stories and manga (including the Brother and Sister Nishioka’s otherworldly take on Kafka’s “The Hunger Artist”; in the inaugural issue, readers were introduced to the pair’s utterly distinct style in their version of another Kafka story, “A Country Doctor.”). And yes, there’s work from Murakami: a succinct, incisive essay on the craft of storytelling, in which he uses his books as examples. (Volume 1 featured an in-depth, candid interview with the author.)
Looking forward to next year when the journal’s third issue comes out (25 percent of all sales, by the way, go toward the Nippon Foundation/CANPAN Northeastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund), we chatted via email about Monkey Business with editors Ted Goossen, a noted translator in Toronto who teaches Japanese literature and film, and Motoyuki Shibata, an esteemed Japanese scholar who teaches U.S. literature at the University of Tokyo and has translated Paul Auster, Thomas Pynchon, and Richard Powers.