Tag Archives: JE Translation

What to Read?

One of the questions I frequently get from students who are thinking about becoming literary translators is what they should read. That is a question that every librarian loves to hear. “Oh let’s talk books!” But this is no easy task. There is so much good literature being published that it is impossible to stay on top of the totality of it. Why not let others take the first swipe.

Contemporary Japanese Literature is a website maintained by Kathryn Hemmann. The site includes a lot of book reviews, recommended reading lists, and essays.

The Japan Foundation published a newsletter for many years called Japanese Book News. It looks like it hasn’t been published for a few years though. I am leaving it here because there is a lot of good information in its back issues, but I am sad that it isn’t being maintained.

A few sources that I am taken with include:
Monkey Business magazine is such a fabulous magazine for anyone interested in Japanese literature in translation. One of the fascinating things (to me) is that it is not just contemporary literature being translated here. Lots of really fabulous translators get published in Monkey Business and are able to build a solid portfolio of translations before tackling full length works.

Words Without Borders. Really nice translations of Japanese literature and take a look at the Educators’ section for ways to use the stories in class.

Wasafiri magazine is a British-based magazine of international creative writing. It often includes English translations of Japanese literature and occasional special issues on Japanese literature like this one Issue 102: Japan: Literatures of Remembering

Granta is a publisher based in Great Britain that includes a number of translations of Japanese literature, art & photography, and essays. Lovely stuff and such a pleasant way to keep up with new publications.

Asymptote presents work in translation alongside the original texts, as well as audio recordings of those original texts whenever possible. You can search by author, translator, language of the original or click on the map.


Literary Hub is an amazing site full of good writing, information about publishing trends, and often includes book reviews, interviews, and lists of books that should be translated. Use the search box to find the articles related to Japan.

This is a blog post in process. I will continue to add to it and edit it as I find links.

Figuring Out What Has Been Published in Translation

Student assignments, and even individuals interested in doing JE translation usually start from the proviso – select a story that hasn’t yet been published in English.

The standby source used to be the Japan Foundation’s Japanese Literature in Translation database. It doesn’t provide full coverage – you will find some translations missing – but it is pretty darn good.

Allison Markin Powell maintains a database called Japanese Literature in English. It is definitely worth your time to check both the Japan Foundation database as well as Powell’s.

David Boyd pointed me to the 3% Database, which used to be housed at the University of Rochester and maintained by Chad Post is now available through Publishers Weekly. Translation Database . One unique feature of this database is that you can search by the gender of both the author and the translator.

For the purposes of aspiring translators, rather than student assignments, David Boyd kindly pointed out another excellent source of information from Japan Foundation – an annual list of which books were awarded translation and/or publication funding support. I hadn’t realized that this source of information was so useful, but it really is and it is worth checking all the regions because some really good English translations are coming out from all kinds of countries. Support Program for Translation and Publication on Japan