Waugh in Japan

ProQuest has published another link on the internet to an academic study relating to Evelyn Waugh. This is an article by the late John Howard Wilson entitled “The Origins of Japanese Interest in Evelyn Waugh 1948-1963” and was published in Southern Illinois University’s journal Papers on Language and Literature, vol. 50, no. 1, Winter 2014. John Wilson was, as many of our readers know, founder of the Evelyn Waugh Society and for many years editor of its journal, Evelyn Waugh Studies. This article would have been one of the last things he published before his untimely death in December 2014. The subject of article is summarized in these extracts from its opening paragraphs:

The A. D. Peters Collection at the Harry Ransom Center, the University of Texas at Austin, is well known as an extensive repository of correspondence between a literary agent and clients including Arthur Koestler and Terence Rattigan. Arguably the most important member of Peters’s stable was Evelyn Waugh, and their correspondence has been thoroughly combed by biographers, critics, and editors. Waugh’s British publishers, Chapman & Hall, handled his books within the Empire and left serial rights and foreign affairs to Peters. … During his life, almost all foreign interest in Waugh came from Europe, or at least countries that employed European languages, such as Argentina. The only exception was Japan. In the collection, inquiries from Japan and responses from Peters and Waugh extend over fifteen years in an unusually well-documented case of a British writer’s reception in a non-western country.

… The 1930s and early 1940s were hardly propitious for Japanese reception of a British writer. [After Japan’s 1945 defeat] by Allied forces, [it was] occupied for almost seven years. To understand the conquerors, Japanese people increasingly studied the English language, and some chose Evelyn Waugh as an instructor. …. Pressured by the Cold War, American authorities … purged the “Reds,” and rehabilitated the establishment. In this increasingly conservative atmosphere, Japanese publishers and scholars began to show interest in Waugh, a reactionary English satirist.

Two problems mitigated Waugh’s popularity in Japan, however; one was domestic, the other foreign. First was the division between Japanese scholarly and popular tastes. Many translators of Waugh were Japanese professors of English, and what they found interesting did not necessarily attract large audiences. Thanks to Yoshiharu Usui, a recent PhD from Seikei University, abstracts of Japanese essays on Waugh have recently become available in English, and these can to some extent be correlated with the Peters correspondence. The second problem was the British tendency to assume superiority, along with the Japanese tendency, when confronted with such an attitude, to turn away. Both tendencies are evident in the Peters correspondence and the Japanese scholarship on Waugh. These difficulties prevented Waugh from reaching a larger audience in Japan, where he has never achieved the popularity of his contemporary Graham Greene…).

The abstracts of Japanese articles mentioned above have been translated into English by Yoshiharu Usui and appear in Evelyn Waugh Studies over several issues beginning with No. 40.1 (Spring 2009). The link to John Wilson’s article is posted on the internet and is available here. A subscription will be needed to open the paper, but these are usually available from research libraries.

Also posted is a ProQuest link from a later issue of the same journal to a review of Marcel DeCoste’s 2015 study, The Vocation of Evelyn Waugh. This is reviewed by Naomi Milthorpe and appears in the Papers on Language and Literature, vol. 52, no. 4 (Fall 2016). Dr Milthorpe describes the book as

… a welcome renewal of long-form scholarship dedicated to Waugh’s themes and style. It is appropriate that DeCoste, as one of the most nuanced and sympathetic of Waugh’s twentyfirst-century readers, should be the first of these new Wavians…The Vocation of Evelyn Waugh is timely, but also of its time, illustrative of recent general trends in Waugh studies: dealing with faith as a central theme and reading lesser-known texts. The book is energetic, attentive to narrative details as much as to broad themes. Most importantly, thanks to his attention to long-neglected texts, DeCoste demonstrates the importance of the later fiction in understanding Waugh’s art.

UPDATE: A reference was added to a later article in the same journal.

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