Hailed recently as "the greatest translator of Asian Literature ever to have lived", Arthur Waley (1889-1966) had an immeasurable influence on Western perceptions of Asia and on the development of Asian studies in the West. Waley was the single most important force in creating what the English-speaking public understood to be "Japanese literature" with his popular and critically acclaimed translations of Japanese poetry, "no" plays and the celebrated 11th-century court romance "The Tale of Genji". This study of Waley and his Japanese translations provides a provocative examination of Waley's contribution to 20th-century English literature and culture. John de Gruchy "orients" Waley as a member of an elite Anglo-Jewish family, a top graduate of Rugby and Cambridge and a younger member of the Bloomsbury Group. He examines how the social contexts influenced Waley's work and he further locates Waley's Japanese translations within the political contexts of the Japonism movement, British socialism and imperialism and the development of Japanese studies in England.
How a "cult of things Japanese" in the early modern period in Britain led to the emergence of one of the 20th century's most important translators is an interesting story in itself.
Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press