Meredith McKinney

Meredith McKinney, our pre-eminent translator of Japanese classics – among them Sei Shōnagon’s The Pillow Book, the poetry of Saigyō Hōshi, the memoirs Essays in Idleness by Yoshida Kenkō, and Kamo no Chōmei’s Hōjōki (Record of the Ten Foot Square Hut) – has delivered another marvel of absorbing, elegant scholarship. Travels with a Writing Brush crosses the country of old Japan, from north to south and from east to west, and is a quintessential travel book. It goes to places, and shows them – except that the latter is not quite true; you would not go to this book to see things objectively so much as to cue to them imaginatively.

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The Wild Goose by Mori Õgai, translated by Meredith McKinney

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December 2014, no. 367

Elegantly evoking Japan with cream paper and ink-painted foliage on the cover and inside pages, this slim paperback from the small Braidwood publisher Finlay Lloyd is headed by the single, bold character for ‘wild goose’ (karikarigane). The events recounted in Mori Õgai’s novella occur in Tokyo in the late nineteenth century, in the area north of Kanda around Ueno’s Shinobazu pond, near the residence of the Iwasaki family and the campus of Tokyo Imperial University. A map shows the regular walks taken by Okada, a medical student, along meticulously named streets and lanes, past temples and shrines, restaurants and bookshops, some of which are still there. According to the seasons, the residents in this small area silently change their screens, blinds, and shutters, able to look out while remaining barely visible.

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With Love and Fury edited by Patricia Clarke and Meredith McKinney & Portrait of a Friendship edited by Bryony Cosgrove

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July–August 2007, no. 293

Judith Wright and Barbara Patterson met at a gathering of the Barjai group, a Brisbane salon for young poets and artists, when Judith was almost twice Barbara’s age. Judith had not yet published her first collection, The Moving Image (1946). She read some poems and Barbara was magnetised.

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Anyone who has had the experience of trying to translate a poem across even a fairly low-density language barrier (say German or French into English) will have tasted the near despair of finding oneself in danger of killing that in the creature that one most wanted to save. Sometimes it feels like cutting down the tree and whittling from the wood a mere mock replica of it  – the sap goes, the leaves in all their lively beauty disappear, and at best there’s an artifact which cleverly reproduces the mere outlines of what was once brimming with life.

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