In this thorough and fascinating volume, Donald Keene introduces his readers to the sweep of Japanese literature in all its great variety and unusual beauty, from earliest times to the mid-nineteenth century.
Although Keene is careful to point out that 'the book...neither a systematic outline nor a work of reference, but a highly personal appreciation of certain aspects of Japanese literature which I believe to be of especial interest to the Western reader,' every genre and style, from the somber beauty of Noh plays to the eroticism of seventeenth century novels, is included. The translations have been chosen not only for their accuracy but also for their readability as English prose and poetry. A brief but informative introduction is followed by four essays, on 'Japanese Poetry,' 'The Japanese Theater,' 'The Japanese Novel,' and 'Japanese Literature under Western Influence,' which collectively provide both a succinct history of the literature and culture of classical Japan and a guide to critical understanding.
The book's excellence has long been established, and its numerous reprinting, including the current edition, attest to its enduring appeal.