‘Once and Forever: The Tales of Kenji Miyazawa’ translated by John Bester – review

Once and Forever: The Tales of Kenji MiyazawaOnce and Forever: The Tales of Kenji Miyazawa by Kenji Miyazawa

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The worlds of fairy tales, folk tales, and fables spring from a poetic association between imagination and nature as inscribed on a mind tablet of the visionary, the dreamer, the innocent, and the humanitarian in the embodiment of the Writer who composes a continual fugue of dreamscapes, visions, imagery, and nature in a phantasmagorical display of such fancy worlds. In this peculiar context of regarding the fairy tales or folk legends anchored in everyday world, Kenji Miyazawa’s tales are full of imagery that bestows a touch of magic on every thing however trifle and insignificant it may seem to the eyes of the melee. The result is a riveting twilight world of legends and folk tales where nature becomes primary world, Reality on its own in a very mystifyingly pretty way.

Notwithstanding the subject of the book, it merits a classic literature aisle in nationwide booksellers because it contains all the characteristics of profound yet catholic themes of nature of humanity that are illustrated in the works of Hans Christian Anderson, The Grimm Brothers, and Aesop. In fact, this book is strikingly scarcely a false or childish note but strangely not depressing. If Miyazawa does not provide the reader with a sense of jostling braggadocio or a promise of ever optimistic view on reality of the world that are accustomed to and taken for granted as literary license in the Western minds, he presents a prospect of innocence, so ethereal and quaint that it almost feels physical when reading. This tangible feeling of the visions is delivered by Miyazawa’s wonderful storytelling skills enveloped in poetic expressions devoted to evoking the images of a rural Japan prior to the Meiji Restoration in the mid 19th century that no longer exists.

Kenji Miyazawa (1897-1933) was a Japanese writer who was first and foremost poet at heart concerned with particular beauties and universal truths transcending time and culture. This book, translated by the late renowned English professor John Bester, is a collection of short folk tales of the bygone eras that Miyazawa seems to fantastically incorporate with his contemporary world of reality in which whims, inconsistencies, and follies of humans are everyday occurrence. The tale of “The Earth God and the Fox” shows how love and friendship are destroyed by betrayal and misunderstanding in a blight of jealousy and fury, which then eventually leads to destruction. In the case of “Wildcat and the Acorns,” Miyazawa pokes fun at parvenus and upstarts who suddenly found themselves in the wealth of western-influenced cultural artifacts in denigration of the traditional Japanese customs and values regarded as outdated and culturally backward. However, even such acerbic, poignant criticism of the Nouveau Japan is enticingly swiveled in poetic prose with musicality and choice of the language – simple but visionary- he employs.

The tales seem to speak to our world of confused syllogism bloated with inordinate wantonness and inflated egotism, decorated with selfies in Facebook and Instagram, and vehement subjectivities, all fragmented and adrift, full of sound and fury. The tales bring the reader to another time out of this evolutionary scale and 24-hour clock, and they can take the reader to a different place of innocence that seems to be out of touch in this existential world of reality. In this regard, this book is a quaintly pretty – or twee even – marionette play, fusing Miyazawa’s poetic words with his cast of interesting characters ranging from a beautiful birch tree to wise foxes, to graceful fawns, to talking acorns, and to deities living in streams and mountains and everywhere, all in the beautiful rural landscapes as picturesque stage backgrounds. It is a fascinating read that matches its fanciful title.

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