Jiro Asada interview:
Your ancestor was a samurai. How does this influence your outlook on life?
A: It makes me unable to do a dastardly, unmanly thing. So thanks to that, I’m a maladroit man.
You are amazingly prolific, with over 70 novels in 14 years. Could you stop writing if you wanted to?
A: No, I can’t. Because I don’t live by writing fiction, I just live on it.
What’s your favorite aspect of writing?
A: As I mentioned in my answer to the previous question, fiction is the food for me, guaranteeing my life. There are many types of fiction, some I like, some I don’t, but aspect is too philosophical a concept for me, and I cannot find an answer to that.
How much of your work is autobiographical?
A: As I feel alienated to the Shi-shousetsu, traditional style of autobiographical novels in Japan, my stories are rarely autobiographical. Though there are some, like “KasumichoMonogatari (Tales of Kasumicho)” and “Tengokumadeno 100 Mairu (100 Miles to Heaven),” that are based on my experience.
Which story mean the most to you, if you had to choose a favorite story or two from the collection?
A: The title story, of course. It has not a slice of me in the created work, which represents my view of literature.
When did you start writing, and why?
A: It was when I entered junior high school. I decided to write as the passion to read filled me so much.
The Stationmaster would probably be considered to be dark fantasy in the American market. What other genres do you write in?
A: I have written in wide and various genres. I don’t regard my talent to be small enough to be limited within one particular genre.
Do you write only in Japanese?
A: Not only to write, I don’t speak other languages than Japanese.
You enjoy gambling and horse racing: are you addicted to the feeling of winning, or is the appeal in the game of chance?
A: I don’t gamble relying on luck alone. I do think about it just like writing fiction.
Do you write full-time?
A: I write from before dawn to noon, and read books in the afternoon.
You’ve described yourself as a “cheap public restaurant” as far as choosing your topics to write about, meaning that you’ll do whatever the public wants. Do you get your ideas from readers, from topics in the news, from editors, or somewhere else?
A: I spread my “antennas” 24/7 around the year. I won’t allow any chance to slip by, from things my eyes see, my ears hear, my hands touch, to ones in my dreams.
Your characters feel things strongly, but hide their feelings to protect other people. Does having a supernatural element make it easier for the characters to open up and heal emotionally?
A: It’s a moral for us, Japanese, to control feelings. It’s a good tradition in the Japanese literature to adopt supernatural elements. Once Yasunari Kawabata said that he’d adopt Japanese rivers and mountains as his soul. I analyze the concept as a literary novelist and absorb it in my works.
There are a lot of ghosts coming back to help their families in The Stationmaster. How is it that ghosts can right wrongs that living people cannot?
A: Because the ghosts are human consciences. When the physical bodies perish, there should be no reason to deny the consciences.
There is a strong element of loneliness and looking for belonging in these stories. As an American I might assume that this is a particularly Japanese feeling, but is it?
A: Men are all lonely. We’re born alone and die alone. But we Japanese have the moral to acknowledge shames in private, which refrains us to seek counsel to others about our own pains and agony.
In “No-Good Santa” you have a guy who’s trying really hard to be a good guy, and yet he gets nervous and runs away at what should be his moment of triumph. Why is it so hard for him to do this selfless act?
A: It’s because of the above-mentioned sense of shame. No Japanese person would wonder about the story.
Do you read foreign novels? What is your favorite novel or novelist? Why is that?
A: Tolstoy and Stendhal have a strong influence on me. The most interesting American novelist is Capote.
Who are your influences?
A: Capote is faithful to the artist spirit. But the most basic thing for me is Chinese classics. SimaQian for storytelling and Tao Yuangming for literary style: there’s nothing better than them, I believe.
Some of your stories in this collection are made into films and dramas. Do you like movies? What is your favorite film or director?
A: For my favorite movies, I like The Godfather trilogy. I’m still impressed every time I view them. It’s wonderful that each film has the same level of quality in storytelling, aesthetics, and entertainment.
Can you recommend any novels or authors that should be translated in English?
A: The works “HongakubouIbun (Last Words of Hongakubou)” by Yasushi Inoue, “KazunomiyasamaOtome (Note about Princess Kazu)” by Sawako Qriyoshi, and “Senkoku (Verdict)” by Otohiko Kagaare, are masterpieces of Japanese modern literature.
Thank you very much.