The sort of thing that people in their twenties enjoy

The Kanagawa Museum of Modern Literature have opened their Natsume Sōseki Digital Literary Museum) (夏目漱石デジタル文学館) to the public. It's all in Japanese, but there's a lot of stuff there, scanned and transcribed. For example, I can't find a way to link directly to it, but you want to know what Sōseki wrote on the inside flap of Sudermann's Dame Care (also at Gutenberg)?

是ハtalentノ作品也 geniusノ作品ニアラズ。(アクヌケ)ノセヌ面白味ヲ有ス。二十代ノ人ノ喜ブモノナリ。英国流ノ趣味ナリ。"Undying Past"ノ方遥カニ優レリ

This is a work of talent, not a work of genius. It is interesting in an unsophisticated way. The sort of thing that people in their twenties enjoy. English in its taste. "Undying Past" was much better.

There's also letters, seal imprints, art, and even "relics": Sōseki's fountain pen! The fifth Sōseki 1000-yen note ever printed! The interface is a bit fiddly and I wouldn't want to do research through it, but as idle browsing material this site is pretty great.


Without a single exception

Henry Yiheng Zhao, "Why Jin's (金庸) Martial Arts Novels Are Adored Only by the Chinese":

For more than half a century since their publication from mid-1950s to the early 1970s, Jin's fourteen martial arts novels have been enjoying sustained popularity among Chinese readers wherever they are and of whichever age, class, or social group and it was estimated in 2004 that Jin's novels sold 300 million copies around the world [...] What deserves scholarly attention is the fact that the translations of those novels into Western languages have failed, without a single exception. Up to the present day, only three out of Jin's texts have been translated to English: Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain (Trans. Olivia Mok, 1996), The Book and the Sword (Trans. Graham Earnshaw, 2001), and The Deer and the Cauldron (Trans. John Minford, 1997-2002). The problem with regard to the lack of the translation of Jin's novels does not rest on language or narrative style because their style could be domesticated in the target language and culture. Further, Jin's novels are read also by diaspora Chinese who cannot read Chinese fluently, but who share the same aesthetic and ethical expectations as native Mainland Chinese. [...] At the same time [...] martial arts enjoys popular appeal because of actors such as Bruce Lee, Jet Li, Jacky Chan, and the like. Films in particular made Kungfu popular, for example by The Matrix Trilogy or by Hidden Dragon Crouching Tiger. [...] The only conclusion I can draw from this situation is that there must be a unique Chinese mentality and structure of cultural references in Jin's novels which appeal to Chinese readers only.

To spoil the ending, Zhao argues that Jin's novels are popular because they are so temperate in ethical outlook. He doesn't however directly address the question of why this shouldn't be popular outside China (except I suppose implicitly, in an argument of the form "China's culture is like this, therefore other cultures are not," but I don't find that especially satisfying).

I've never read any of Jin's work, but to judge from the descriptions in this paper the real problem might be much more concrete: his novels assume knowledge of Chinese history (both recent and older) that non-Chinese readers do not as a rule have. A good translation for popular consumption will, of course, find some way to explain these things, but it's obviously not the same as having carried the stories around in your head since your formative years, and the emotional resonance and general interest will inevitably suffer.


Spectacular accumulation

Morgan Pitelka, author of the new book Spectacular Accumulation: Material Culture, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and Samurai Sociability, has created an eponymous site to help promote it. What makes this noteworthy is that the site is much better than similar efforts I have seen, especially the blog, "1616", which strikes a fine balance between brevity and depth (and is, as far as I can tell, original material rather than just excerpts from the book).

For example: "The geography of Ieyasu's career":

What is striking is the extent to which this territory of the Tôkaidô—and indeed, as the term would come to signify the highway connecting Edo and Kyoto/Osaka rather than the old administrative unit, that roadway as well—demarcated and mapped Ieyasu's activities. He only ventured out of its confines on two occasions (once to Kyushu in the south and once to Mutsu Province in the north), and never for any significant period of time. Ieyasu and his peers traveled back and forth along this east-west passage, from Okazaki to Hamamatsu, from Sunpu to Kyoto, and from Edo to Osaka, inscribing a history of war, diplomacy, chance, and ritual into the collective memories of its people and locales. Early modern tourists traversing the highway long after Ieyasu’s death could stop in Sunpu or Okazaki, and encounter pacified and in some cases commodified versions of the Tokugawa founder through the genealogy of famous places (meisho).

This geography is key to understanding the rapid shifts in the political fortunes of Ieyasu and his contemporaries. Nobunaga was assassinated in part because he allowed himself to be isolated in Kyoto, with his major generals scattered in campaigns too far from the capital to protect him. [...]