A Japanese tale – not about daring ninja or battling samurai – but a hero with a very different penchant. Based on an actual historical figure, the Akutagawa-nominated master short story writer, Kanji Hanawa, takes the reader on a journey of self-discovery, as Lord Asunaro inherits his own Japanese fiefdom and grapples with his role and ultimate legacy. Hanawa provides us with an unusual and entertaining perspective on the psychology of change within Japan when it was still ruled by its men of steel, samurai and shoguns.
As Japan emerges from the conflict-ridden era dominated by infamous warlords into a golden age of plenty, a young lord – heir to a vast domain and incumbent ruler of all he surveys – lives deep within a spiralling castle.
From the pen of Hanawa, this cleverly spun tale features our young Lord Asunaro, a ‘warlord’ who doesn’t fit the brave samurai stereotype, as he faces a modernising world where learning now outvalues military prowess. Carrying the legacy of his bloodline, he is compelled to find his place among the great figures of his ancestors.
Hanawa’s charming story, The Chronicles of Lord Asunaro is translated by Meredith McKinney, and takes the reader back to life and leadership in feudal Japan – while also exploring universal themes of legacy, inheritance, expectations, the weight of history and the psychology of change.
‘Everything about this series’ intention and design is steeped in Japanese culture… the books are thematically diverse [and] signal a cultural exchange… communicating directly and intentionally with Western audiences through fiction…similarly effective is Lord Asunaro, which charts with similar precision Asunaro’s slow and quiet ascension to lordship, and maturation into an adult.’
‘I have admired, the Akutagawa Prize-nominated Hanawa’s literary style for a long time. Each time he is nominated, I recommend him. And I am delighted that he continues to write at the same prize-winning level.’
Shohei Ooka, novelist and winner of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award, as well as the Noma, Asahi and Yomiuri Prizes
‘He writes with a surreal style, similar to how I do on occasion, which I find very interesting and stimulating. But what makes me really happy is that he does it so much better than I do.’
Makoto Shiina, author of Gaku Monogotari
‘Coping with expectations and finding our place in the world is something even Japanese warlords have known to struggle with. This is a samurai story with a difference – an amusing and compelling yarn concerning the discovery of one’s passions and legacy. All good storytelling can be read as a metaphor for something, and this thought-provoking tale by Kanji Hanawa is no exception.’
Alex Pearl, author of Sleeping with the Blackbirds
‘…is an important work of social commentary doing what all the greatest short stories do: opening a rabbit hole of thought down which the reader will fall.’
The Japan Times, commenting on Backlight by Kanji Hanawa
‘At short novella-length, Backlight is a quick story – but quite effective at raising interesting questions, including about cultural and social differences and attitudes, and parental responsibilities… the universal issues and questions it addresses give it the air of larger work.’
The Complete Review, commenting on Backlight by Kanji Hanawa