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Twelve Views from the Distance Paperback – November 29, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press; Tra edition (November 29, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816679363
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816679362
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,396,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"It is magnificent that in this book, Twelve Views from the Distance, the poet Mutsuo Takahashi has managed to achieve firm prose that, while unmistakably the work of a poet, shines with a black luster much like a set of drawers crafted by a master of old. This book is a magnificent collection of sensations and of memories, much like the toys we might find in a dark closet. The part toward the end in which the theme of his ‘search for a father’ crystallizes in a copy of an erotic book radiates a certain tragic beauty." —Yukio Mishima

About the Author

Mutsuo Takahashi is one of Japan’s leading living poets. He has published more than three dozen anthologies of poetry and is a prolific essayist, literary historian, and critic.

Jeffrey Angles is associate professor of modern Japanese literature and translation studies at Western Michigan University. He is the author of Writing the Love of Boys: Origins of Bishonen Culture in Modernist Japanese Literature (Minnesota, 2011).


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Guttersnipe Das on February 27, 2014
Format: Paperback
Mutsuo Takahashi knows how to make beauty from suffering. What skill could be more urgently needed now? How lucky that this book, originally published in 1970, has at last been translated by Jeffrey Angles in poetic language that is as gorgeous as it is precise.

Raised in poverty by day laborers, Takahashi appears to be one of those rare persons able to use every misery as fuel for insight. The twelve chapters of this book are indeed "twelve views", or angles, and the perspective gained thus of violence, sexuality and rural Japan is complex and unflinching.

"I have been loved by many different spirits," Takahashi writes. This book preserves an understanding of "places outside the world we cannot see with eyes alone" that seems to have been eradicated in modern Japan as surely as the rivers have been lined with cement. "Spirituality" is what it usually gets called but it is a spirituality devoid of wishfulness and precise as cartography. The only other book I've found that conveys this level of (how to say it?) rural Japanese spiritual acumen is Michiko Ishimure's Lake of Heaven.

Of the twelve views, the view of sexuality is certain to grab one's attention. (You are also unlikely to find another truly compelling literary depiction of sex with chickens.) But, besides the understanding of "communities outside the world", what I find most stunning about the book is its deep understanding of violence. After describing a beating at the hands of his mother, Takahashi writes, "It sounds strange to say this, but when adults behave violently toward children, they always seem much sadder than the children they mistreat. Children do not fail to notice that, even as they tremble in fear.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By scoundrel on December 3, 2013
Format: Paperback
Katsushika Hokusai is best known for “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa,” a masterpiece of Japanese woodblock prints, ukiyo-e. And even though “The Great Wave” was a part of a series, Thirty-Six Views of Fuji, it has almost eclipsed the rest of Hokusai’s work. Similarly, the poet Mutsuo Takahashi is best known for his homoerotic poetry, particularly the thousand-line “Ode,” which has drawn comparisons to Walt Whitman’s work for its merging of the sacred reverence and corporeal pleasure.

But as powerful as “Ode” is, it shouldn’t necessarily cast a shadow over Takahashi’s other work, particularly his newly-translated collection of essays, Twelve Views from the Distance. And although Takahashi’s examination of sexuality doesn’t start until 3/4ths of the way through the collection with “The Shore of Sexuality,” his work (ably translated by Jeffrey Angles) shows a lyrical sensuousness throughout that hint at his sexual awakening.

Interestingly enough, he connects early childhood games with his relatives—the equivalent to say “Airplane”—to his burgeoning sexuality. These games would soon escalate to more explicit adolescent explorations, but sexual feelings, explains Takahashi, “connects the individual to the outside world.” In other words, Takahashi’s sexuality is not merely an internal expression, but an outward expression—bridging him to humanity at large.

The flipside of that bridge, however, is violence. And while much of the violence that Takahashi relates is on a personal level—fights with his classmates, for instance, or beatings from his mother—it reflects the violence wreaked upon Japan itself both during and after the war, recalling, for instance, the leftover mines that would occasionally break apart a ship.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robert A. Banbury on October 19, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is an excellent example of how an author and a translator can create a beautiful work. No matter how good the work being translated, it is only as good as the translator's skills in conveying it in English. In this work we see the sad but poetic youth of Takahashi and details of Nippon culture that are delightful and entertaining.
Even if you know nothing of Takahashi, read this book and enjoy a wonderful trip to Nippon of the 1940's and 50's.
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful By littlemass on January 18, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not sure if this was quite what I expected - focuses on his youth - but without a clear path to his later life. The recounting of activities during the war are very good, however.
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