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Japan is as renowned for its xenophobia as its tea ceremony and flower arrangement, yet just as traditionally its writers desperately strive for a place on the wider literary playing fields abroad. They do so not only because that's where more money and greater fame lie but also because those who achieve translation are inordinately celebrated and esteemed at home. In their eagerness to secure that export seal of cultural approval they often try to style their characters according to Western fashions and modes. Or ensconce beneath their native kimonos Freudian explanations, Marxist interpretations...

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