A Place Called ‘Motomenai’

The Japanese press reported widely in early January of this year about the recent death of someone I had known fairly well, Shozo Kajima, of old age. He was 92 years old. He was cited in most of the obituaries as the author of a mega-bestselling poetry book titled Motomenai [Not wanting], published in 2007.

But what most of the media here didn’t report in their brief stories on Kajima were the kinds of things I had gotten to know personally about him in recent years: how he had been among the up-and-coming literary figures in Japan after World War II, how he became a renowned scholar and translator of English-language classics (especially by the U.S. author William Faulkner), how he found a new form of expression in watercolor painting, and how, later in life, he rediscovered his Asian roots in the Chinese philosophy of Taoism and had become known as a respected Taoist philosopher in Japan.

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The Year of Baldwin — Joining the Celebration

When the U.S. writer James Baldwin died at age 63 in 1987, he left behind a treasure trove of writings and a legacy that seemed certain to grow and deepen with the passing of time.

If Baldwin had been living among us today, he would have been heartened, I’m sure, to see his 90th birthday feted just a few days ago on August 2, and his legacy as one of the greatest writers of our time still recognized and warmly embraced.

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