Edward Seidensticker 1921-2007

Michael McCaskey mccaskem
Tue Aug 28 11:14:31 EDT 2007

Prof. Seidensticker was a wonderful person--unassuming and kind. I first encountered him when I was a grad. student at Yale. He gave a talk about Japanese lit., and afterward cooked a spaghetti dinner for everyone at a Yale prof's place.

Some years later, after he translated I think Kawabata's Sound of the Mountain, I saw a review of it in the Wash. Post Book Week, where the review honcho wrote that the book seemed to him so diffuse that the translator must have done a bad job and made many mistakes. I mailed a copy of the review to Prof. S., to let him know how much of a moron the reviewer was. Some months later, Seidensticker won the National Book Award for that translation, and he told me the Wash. Post review editor was on stage, and that Seidensticker had the satisfaction of being able to take out the review clipping and make some sarcastic comments to this editor about that stupid review.

Years later on, Seidensticker came to Georgetown and very kindly gave an informal talk to my students. He was very nice and unassuming, as usual. He mentioned some problems in translation posed by traditional Japanese fittings--for instance, when someone shut a sliding door and fastened it closed with a tradition bamboo (or more recently metal) screw-in fastener. He wondered if "locking the door" was really a good translation. He also revealed that Pearl S. Buck (S for Seidenstiecker, I think) was his cousin, even though she spelled the S-name a bit differently from the way his was spelled.

This was a truly fine and kind and learned man. I appreciate learning of his passing, he lived a long time and accomplished a lot, and I'm very forunate and grateful that I had the chance to talk with him in person a few times in my life.

Michael McCaskey
Georgetown Univ.

----- Original Message -----
From: Alexander Jacoby <a_p_jacoby at yahoo.co.uk>
Date: Monday, August 27, 2007 8:23 pm
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 material.
> 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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