Japan has many literary awards but one is particularly coveted by authors from across the archipelago - The Akutagawa Prize.

Established in 1935 to honour one of Japan's most famous literary sons, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, the prize is a holy grail in Japanese literary circles and has cemented the status of countless writers since its inception. In terms of British and American equivalents, the award is on par with The Man Booker or The Pulitzer Prize.


Picture
From left to right: Akutagawa pictured in 1921, on a postage stamp in a similar pose, and 2011's Akutagawa Prize winner, Tanaka Shinya.

I thought it would be revealing to assess how many of these 151 award-winning works (mostly short stories and novellas) have not been translated into English. As the critical creme-de-la-creme of Japanese fiction, these novels should be prime targets for export. 

Subsequent research has highlighted that as many as 42 of the total (nearly a third) remain in Japanese-only editions, or languages other than English. Why these works have not merited an English translation is uncertain - publishing bureaucracy, commercial viability or sheer apathy may have played their part. It seems that there remains a remarkable opportunity to bring many of these classics of modern Japanese fiction to a wider audience.  

Keep a look-out for a more in-depth breakdown of individual Akutagawa prizewinners, soon to come on this blog.

Below are some useful links, with further information and discussion of the award:

The Akutagawa Prize - an outline / history

Japan Times - an article on last year's winners

The Mainichi Daily News - Prize condemnation by the ever controversial Ishihara
 


Comments

Gustave A
01/27/2012 04:13

Same story with the Naoki Prize...

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09/22/2013 22:56

English translation is uncertain - publishing bureaucracy, commercial viability or sheer apathy may have played their part. It seems that there remains a remarkable opportunity to bring many of these classics of modern Japanese fiction to a wider audience.

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Interesting to read about the Japan Times - an article on last year's winners...I would like to have an overview of the Akutagawa prizewinners!

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10/31/2013 02:51

I just created a weebly account after finding your blog, thanks.

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