Internationally acclaimed Japanese author Nakamura Fuminori visits GW

Nakamura
November 10, 2014

The internationally acclaimed Japanese author Nakamura Fuminori visited GW on November 5, 2014. Nakamura is currently on tour to promote the recent publication of Last Winter, We Parted (Soho Press, 2014), the English translation of his novel from 2012. He gave a reading from the work and an interview session at the Sigur Center. Assistant Professor Anri Yasuda moderated, and Assistant Professor Leo Hanami interpreted for the author. About 30 students and faculty attended the event. Following this event, Nakamura visited a third year Japanese class where he conversed with the students. After his afternoon at GW, he said he was struck by the students’ thoughtful questions and insights, and was happy to encounter young people who are interested in Japan and its literature.

In the interview, when asked about why his works often depict the darker side of human nature, Nakamura answered, “ I am interested in the moment when characters begin to deviate from the norms of goodness and sanity. How does this process work? I want to explore human nature.” He then explained that as a Japanese writer, his works reflect views and values shaped by Japanese culture, but that he wants his stories to focus on elements of human nature that are universally relatable. He counts Dostoevsky and Sartre as amongst his largest literary influences. But in addition to portraying philosophical issues, Nakamura stressed that it is important to him that his works are also enjoyable for readers. “I don’t think an author has to choose between being ‘purely literary’ and being a good story-teller.” Last Winter, We Parted, a murder-mystery with a surprising ending, reflects these approaches. It examines an artist’s attempts to capture the essence of his subjects, and delves into the psychologies of love, obsession, and artistic drive.

Nakamura’s writings, which challenge conventional genre divisions with their literary tone and themes and their dramatic storylines, have won numerous accolades in Japan, including the Oe Prize, the Noma Prize, and the Akutagawa Prize. In the US too, Nakamura received the 2014 David L. Goodis Award for Noir Fiction. Last year, The Thief, his first novel to be translated into English, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. More of his books are scheduled to appear in English translation in 2015 and beyond.