A global outlook is a critical part of the School of English’s identity, with colleagues exploring literature from around the world and investigating their regional and – crucially – global significance. We are therefore delighted that Dr Kaori Nagai was asked to contribute the introductory analysis for a new collection of the short stories of the beloved Japanese author Kenji Miyazawa. Published by Vintage Classics, Night Train to the Stars brings together 25 of Miyazawa’s enigmatic folk tales for a wide audience in a new edition.
Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933) was a Japanese poet and novelist, whose work is still read widely in Japan. His stories and poems, infused with his Buddhist beliefs and love of the environment, have been adapted several times for manga, as well as film and television.
Dr Nagai felt honoured to have been asked to write the collection’s introduction. “Miyazawa is a hugely popular writer in Japan and an integral part of our cultural imagination and I was surprised that he is hardly known in the English-speaking world,” she explains. “He is an amazing writer, so I hope this edition will reach a new audience.”
For Nagai, Miyazawa’s work holds a contemporary importance. “In our era of climate emergency and environmental destruction, we have learned how destructive we are as a species,” she writes in the concluding sections of her introduction. “It feels important to read Miyazawa now, as he was a writer who perpetually improvised with nature – spiritually, scientifically and ecologically – to create many beautiful and profound works of art.”
The collection also features a foreword by renowned novelist and Kent alumnus David Mitchell. “I am delighted that my introduction has the good fortune to appear next to a foreword by David Mitchell – making this collection a uniquely ‘Kent’ collection,” Nagai explains. “His love of and familiarity with Japanese literature is well-known. I believe his fans would find Miyazawa fascinating as there are many crossovers between their rich and unforgettably enchanting literary worlds.”
Dr Bashir Abu-Manneh, Head of the School of English says: “The School of English is renowned for its engagement and research on global literature, so naturally I am delighted to see the publication of Dr Nagai’s contribution to this edition. Her illuminating introduction is especially sensitive to the cultural context and aesthetic distinction of Miyazawa’s stories.”
Night Train to the Stars can be purchase now directly from Vintage Classics and all good booksellers.