Chronicles of My Life

An American in the Heart of Japan

Donald Keene. Illustrated by Akira Yamaguchi

Columbia University Press

Chronicles of My Life

Pub Date: November 2009

ISBN: 9780231144414

208 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $26.95£22.00

Pub Date: May 2008

ISBN: 9780231513487

208 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $18.99£15.99

Chronicles of My Life

An American in the Heart of Japan

Donald Keene. Illustrated by Akira Yamaguchi

Columbia University Press

"I sometimes think that if, as the result of an accident, I were to lose my knowledge of Japanese, there would not be much left for me. Japanese, which at first had no connection with my ancestors, my literary tastes, or my awareness of myself as a person, has become the central element of my life."

In this eloquent and wholly absorbing memoir, the renowned scholar Donald Keene shares more than half a century of his extraordinary adventures as a student of Japan. Keene begins with an account of his bittersweet childhood in New York; then he describes his initial encounters with Asia and Europe and the way in which World War II complicated that experience. He captures the sights, scents, and sounds of Japan as they first enveloped him, and talks of the unique travels and well-known intellectuals who later shaped the contours of his academic career.

Keene traces the movement of his passions with delicacy and subtlety, deftly weaving his love for Japan into a larger narrative about identity and home and the circumstances that led a Westerner to find solace in a country on the opposite side of the world. Chronicles of My Life is not only a fascinating tale of two cultures colliding, but also a thrilling account of the emotions and experiences that connect us all, regardless of our individual origins.
Lovingly illustrated by the artist Akira Yamaguchi, the book limns a life inseparably linked to its dominant passion.... The history is fascinating, and the literary life Keene has doggedly carved out of it, remarkable. Andrew Monahan, TIME, Asia Edition
Keene's book soars, largely because of his intriguing, highly personal account of the literary milieu of Japan, particularly its drama, whether on stage or screen.... [An] engaging and eloquent memoir. Robert Elegant, Times Literary Supplement
Gratifying... picaresque.... The pathos at the heart of Keene's lovely and gracious memoir, and perhaps of his extraordinary life, emanates from this very human limitation: we cannot live in and love two worlds at once. Roland Kelts, Bookforum
Few memoirs have the concision, modesty, and charm that mark this late-life work by Donald Keene, America's most renowned scholar and interpreter of Japan. Foreword
[Keene] shares and teaches, speaking in vignettes by turns wistful, forceful, and lyrical.... This slim volume [is] a pleasure to read. Erik R. Lofgren, World Literature Today

About the Author

Donald Keene is Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature and University Professor Emeritus at Columbia University. He is the author of more than thirty books, including Frog in the Well: Portraits of Japan by Watanabe Kazan, 1793-1841; Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World; and Yoshimasa and the Silver Pavilion: The Creation of the Soul of Japan; as well as the definitive multivolume history of Japanese literature.