Edward Seidensticker 1921-2007

Peter Grilli grilli
Tue Aug 28 05:09:41 EDT 2007

Edward Seidensticker?s death in Tokyo yesterday diminishes greatly the
tiny field of great writers and scholars of Japan of the immediate
postwar period ? the group that effectively ?created? the field of
Japanese studies in America.  
Seidensticker had been in a coma in a Tokyo hospital for the past four
months.  While his death may seem a liberation to his close friends who
nursed him during the sad period of his final weeks and months, it is a
tremendous loss to his many, many admirers all over the world and to the
millions who first experienced Japanese literature through his fine
translations.  It seems fitting that Seidensticker died in Tokyo, a city
that he knew intimately, chronicled brilliantly, and loved quite
passionately.  His two wonderful volumes on Tokyo, Low City High City:
Tokyo from Edo to the Earthquake and Tokyo Rising: The City Since the
Great Earthquake, are the best studies of Tokyo in English and surely
stand among the best writings about any city anywhere.
Along with Donald Richie?s comments about Ed Seidensticker, noted below
by Steve Stevens, take a look at the nice interview with him by Janet
Pocorobba in an issue of Metropolis magazine from about ten years ago:
This gives a hint of Seidensticker?s uniquely salty personality ? the
sharply perceptive and intensely opinionated aspect of him that
underlies what has come to be known as the ?Seidensticker syndrome,?
which might be defined as an affection for Japan that is so strong and
so well informed that it pulls the insightful observer closer and closer
and simultaneously drives him away.
No library of books about Japan or Japanese literature is complete
without a huge shelf devoted to Seidensticker?s numerous books of
translation, criticism, and opinion.  Now that he?s gone, I intend to go
back and re-read many of them.
Peter Grilli
-----Original Message-----
From: owner-KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
[mailto:owner-KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu] On Behalf Of Steve
Sent: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 2:20 AM
To: KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
Subject: Re: Edward Seidensticker 1921-2007
If you are interested in Edward G. Seidensticker, there are several
references to him in in fellow expat and Japanese film lover Donald
Richie?s excellent book ?A Donald Richie Film Anthology? [1962], which
was reviewed by Jasper Sharp in Midnight Eye of March 6 2005.
Steve Stevens
----- Original Message ----
From: Alexander Jacoby <a_p_jacoby at yahoo.co.uk>
To: KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
Sent: Tuesday, 28 August, 2007 1:23:23 AM
Subject: Edward Seidensticker 1921-2007
Although he was not directly related to the art of the cinema, I think
that everyone on this list should shed a tear at the passing of the
pre-eminent translator of Japanese literature. Western appreciation and
understanding of Mishima, Tanizaki, Kawabata and indeed The Tale of
Genji itself would have been much diminished without his tireless work.

----- Original Message ----
From: Michael McCaskey <mccaskem at georgetown.edu>
To: KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
Sent: Monday, 27 August, 2007 12:13:51 PM
Subject: Re: Tenk? in Japanese film ?
Dear Mark Roberts,

It sounds to me as if you should write a book about this.

Yamada Yoji's Kinema no tenchi (1986), which as you likely know is sort
of a sentimental tribute to the Japanese film industry, covers the
police repression a bit--I haven't seen it for a couple of years, but I
believe there is a secondary character who is hiding out from the
police. The police search the house of one of the main characters, and
find a book about the Marx Brothers. Being stupid, they figure this
makes him a Marxist, and he is sent off to jail, and beaten up. He's not
saved by any legal justice--rather, the head of the studio uses
influence to get him released.

In Kon Satoshi's Millennium Actress (2001), an anime history of the film
industry in Japan starting ca. 1930, the figure of the rebel artist is a
recurring image throughout. This artist, not specifically a film artist,
is arrested, tortured, and finally killed. I imagine this was a way Kon
could handle fascist repression of the film industry.

There were one or two film makers/directors who wound up being drafted
into the army and sent off as regular soldiers to fight in China. I
think one of them had made a film that portrayed the war in China too
realistically (i.e., told the truth about it to some degree). 

If you have not already, you may want to look at the chapter on Cinema
and the State in A New History of Japanese Cinema, by Isolde Standish,
and perhaps most especially at the case of Kamei Fumio, who was jailed
during the war for his left-wing thinking, and his film, The Tragedy of
Japan (Nihon no higeki) pp. 152-154. You may well already have read this

It may be that tenko was so prevalent in the Japanese film industry that
history tends more to note the few people who resisted, rather than the
majority of people who went along. In Peeling the Onion, Gunter Grass
has the repeating theme re people who did not actively support the
repressive activities of the 1933-45 regime, but just avoided saying or
writing anything about them (Grass includes himself pre-1945).

In the case of Germany under the NSDAP, pretty much all of the good
directors and cinematographers and actors and actresses managed to leave
for Hollywood in the 1930s. People in the Japanese film industry, on the
other hand, mostly had nowhere they could go, even if they could leave.

I hope you'll seriously consider writing about tenko in the Japanese
film industry.

With Best Wishes,

Michael McCaskey
Georgetown University

----- Original Message -----
From: "Mark D. Roberts" <mroberts37 at mail-central.com>
Date: Sunday, August 26, 2007 9:40 pm
Subject: Re: Tenk? in Japanese film ?

> Dear Michael, Mathieu, and others,
> Thanks very much for all of your enlightening comments. I had 
> thought  
> of Kurosawa, and Oshima's "Night and Fog", the latter being one of 
> the reasons why I was curious about pre-1960 films. Also, Oshima's 
> film touches on this but seems more concerned with disillusionment 
> and analysis of "internal" failure.
> Tsurumi indeed is the main source for analysis, though I'm not 
> sure  
> if he discusses the phenomenon of "mass tenk?". It seems there is 
> not  
> so much in the field in film studies, though. On this point, 
> Richie's  
> "Art and Industry" is somewhat critical of Imai Tadashi for his 
> shift  
> from left to right to left, but Richie doesn't really acknowledge  
> what was involved in tenk?. He treats it as a lack of political  
> conviction on the part of the individual, and makes little or no  
> mention of practices of coercion. In a more recent book review,  
> Yomota remarks that Peter High's book received a mixed reception 
> in  
> part because of some ongoing resistance to discuss tenk?.
> Based upon a very brief survey of this, my impression is that the  
> generation of directors who began working in the late 1950s were  
> perhaps the first with the liberty to openly treat topic this in  
> their films.
> Again, thanks much for your thoughts about this.
> Best,
> M. Roberts

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