Here’s a bit of a change from art, food and flowers for you: a magazine. A literary magazine, in fact: Granta, whose spring issue focuses on Japan. It’s a special issue published simultaneously in Japanese and English, offering ‘twenty new Japans’ by Japanese and non-Japanese writers and artists who are residents, visitors or neighbours of the country. It looks like a fascinating selection.
Granta is older than you think – it was originally founded by a group of students at Cambridge University in 1889 – but it wasn’t until the 1970’s, when it looked like it might go under, that it was relaunched as the magazine we know today, concentrating on new writing. It has a stated a belief in the power and urgency of the story, both in fiction and non-fiction, and the story’s supreme ability to describe, illuminate and make real. It also has a publishing arm, Granta Books, which is probably better known than the magazine.
The Japan issue features some familiar names, including Canadian writer Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being, a novel about a schoolgirl, a writer and a buddhist nun united by time and parallel worlds. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2013.
For Granta’s Japan issue, she writes an essay on her grandfather, a mysterious photograph she has of him and about the ways she feels linked to him across time. There’s also a podcast on the online magazine in which she discusses Linked and talks about her novel.
Also featured is Yuji Hamada’s photo essay Primal Mountain, in which he reproduces the appearance of mountains using a sheet of tinfoil photographed against the background of the Tokyo sky. ‘The point of shooting under a real sky wasn’t to pass off something fake as real. Rather, I wanted to make something that showed ‘real’ and ‘fake’ becoming friendly with each other.’
London-based Malaysian writer Tash Aw contributes an essay to a feature in which writers are asked to consider an object that they own or have owned that was made in Japan. Aw chooses his rucksack, and contrasts his family’s traditional attitude, formed in the Japanese occupation of Malaysia, of wanting nothing to do with Japan with his generation’s acceptance of Japan as a source of desirable luxury goods.
You can see the full list of contributors and get some tasters of what’s on offer on the online magazine. If you want the full issue you can sign up for a digital and/or a print subscription.