Haiku Poet Bashō in the BBC

I feel like there have been so many articles and what not recently in the news that feature Japanese literature. For me that’s great for two reasons: I really value Japanese literature and am happy to see it popularized, AND I can show these articles to my students and say, “Look! It’s alive and well! It’s cool and exciting!” Too often these days people question the relevance of literature and the rest of the humanities, so I look at these articles as hard evidence that Japanese literature is very relevant in present society and global culture.

The most recent mention of Japanese literature in popular media is here:

Man Booker Prize winner Flanagan: ‘This was the book I had to write’

This video link may not be available for long, but it’s about this year’s Man Booker Prize winner, Richard Flanagan. His novel is called The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Flanagan’s title is a popular English translation of the title to Bashō’s collection of haiku/ travel tale, Oku no hosomichi 奥の細道.

I have not read Flanagan’s book, so I’m not sure what other allusions to Bashō’s work there are (if any). I would be interested in finding out though.

Oku no hosomichi

In the spring I teach an intensive course called “Journey to the Interior” (kind of a boring title, I’ll have to work on that!) All of the students are Japanese. They are familiar with Bashō of course (being forced to read about him in primary & secondary school), but have no idea how revered he is outside of Japan. They find it interesting when I show them how popular Japanese culture is outside of Japan, so I’ll definitely show them this clip next spring.

Go read a book!


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