The Fall of Language in the Age of English

Minae Mizumura. Translated by Mari Yoshihara and Juliet Winters Carpenter

Columbia University Press

The Fall of Language in the Age of English

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Pub Date: February 2017

ISBN: 9780231163033

240 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $25.00£19.95

Pub Date: January 2015

ISBN: 9780231163026

240 Pages

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Pub Date: January 2015

ISBN: 9780231538541

240 Pages

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The Fall of Language in the Age of English

Minae Mizumura. Translated by Mari Yoshihara and Juliet Winters Carpenter

Columbia University Press

Winner of the Kobayashi Hideo Award, The Fall of Language in the Age of English lays bare the struggle to retain the brilliance of one's own language in this period of English-language dominance. Born in Tokyo but raised and educated in the United States, Minae Mizumura acknowledges the value of a universal language in the pursuit of knowledge yet also embraces the different ways of understanding offered by multiple tongues. She warns against losing this precious diversity.

Universal languages have always played a pivotal role in advancing human societies, Mizumura shows, but in the globalized world of the Internet, English is fast becoming the sole common language of humanity. The process is unstoppable, and striving for total language equality is delusional—and yet, particular kinds of knowledge can be gained only through writings in specific languages.

Mizumura calls these writings "texts" and their ultimate form "literature." Only through literature and, more fundamentally, through the diverse languages that give birth to a variety of literatures, can we nurture and enrich humanity. Incorporating her own experiences as a writer and a lover of language and embedding a parallel history of Japanese, Mizumura offers an intimate look at the phenomena of individual and national expression.
The Fall of Language in the Age of English provocatively participates in current debates on world literature, translation, reading, and writing in the age of global English and the Internet, bringing forward a new and illuminating perspective on the translingual formation of national languages and the now endangered arc of modern literature. It is written from the viewpoint of a noted Japanese novelist as well as from a wider theoretical and historical perspective. Tomi Suzuki, Columbia University
A dazzling rumination on the decline of local languages, most particularly Japanese, in a world overshadowed by English. Moving effortlessly between theory and personal reflection, Minae Mizumura's lament—linguistic and social in equal measure—is broadly informed, closely reasoned, and—in a manner that recalls her beloved Jane Austen—at once earnest and full of mischief. John Nathan, translator of Light and Dark: A Novel by Natsume Soseki
A stirring call to consciousness about the role of language.... For English speakers, the book presents an important opportunity to walk in someone else's shoes. Publishers Weekly
The Fall of Language in the Age of English is—or at least can be—valuable to any literature-interested reader. Certainly, it is an interesting personal introduction to aspects of Japanese writing, and its transitions across recent centuries, as Japan's own position internationally has shifted. M. A. Orthofer, The Complete Review
A call to arms for everyone: for all non-native English speakers to embrace and champion literature in their own languages, and for English speakers to be that little less arrogant in their use of their mother tongue, which just happens to have become the world's universal language. Sophie Knight, The Japan Times
Mizumura traces how the myth of the 'national language,' a pure upwelling of political character, coincided with the flowering of the nation-state—and, even more fascinatingly, of the novel itself.... 'Language' may be in the book's title, but Mizumura has really crafted a conservationist's plea for literature. Katy Waldman, Slate
Rigorous and wide-ranging.... This book is a cracker. Peter Gordon, Asian Review of Books
An eye-opening call to consciousness about the role of language. Publishers Weekly Tip Sheet
There is incredibly smart stuff in here... Mizumura's ability to weave together so many strands of history (lingual, academic, economic, geopolitical) paints a clear picture of the evolution of Japanese literature, with commentary on the rest of the globe being a pleasant byproduct. Graham Oliver, The Rumpus
[A] highly charged book. Eric Banks, The Chronicle Of Higher Education
Persuasive, elegantly written.... [The Fall of Language in the Age of English] is highly deserving of attention, from English and Japanese speakers alike, as well as from anyone concerned about literature's past and future. Rebecca Hussey, The Quarterly Conversation
The Fall of Language in the Age of English deserves wider coverage (and debate). Flavorwire
Mizumura has crafted a book that stimulates thought, excites passions, and encourages debate. For these alone, it is well worth a read. Erik R. Lofgren, World Literature Today
Translators Juliet Winter Carpenter and Mari Yoshihara have done a superb job of rendering [the text] into clear, readable English. Japanese Studies
This powerful, insightful work analyzes the predicament of world languages and literatures in an age when English has become the universal language of science and the default language of the internet.... Rich, profound meditation on language and literature. Claremont Review of Books
In The Fall Of Language in the Age of English, Minae Mizumura shows, better than anyone ever has, how English is wrecking other languages — reducing even great literary languages, including Japanese and French, to local dialects — and makes a vigorous case for the superiority of the written over the spoken word. Benjamin Moser, New York Times Book Review
[Mizumura's] book is a 'text to read' in the 'universal library,' to use her terms. Selma K. Sonntag, Journal of Asian Studies
Skillfully translated. Harou Shirane, Public Books
The care with which Mizumura has crafted this book... [makes] the reading of it a pleasure, allowing for wit and personality to shine. Full Stop
Preface to the English Edition
Introduction, by Mari Yoshihara and Juliet Winters Carpenter
1. Under the Blue Sky of Iowa: Those Who Write in Their Own Language
2. From Par Avion to Via Air Mail: The Fall of French
3. People Around the World Writing in External Languages
4. The Birth of Japanese as a National Language
5. The Miracle of Modern Japanese Literature
6. English and National Languages in the Internet Age
7. The Future of National Languages
Notes
Selected Bibliography
Index

Read an excerpt from "Under the Blue Sky of Iowa: Those Who Write in Their Own Language," the introduction to The Fall of Language in the Age of English

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About the Author

Minae Mizumura was born in Tokyo, moved to New York at the age of twelve, and studied French literature at Yale University. Acclaimed for her audacious experimentation and skillful storytelling, Mizumura has won major literary awards for all four of her novels—one of which, A True Novel, was recently published in English. She lives in Tokyo.

Mari Yoshihara is professor of American studies at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. She is the author of Embracing the East: White Women and American Orientalism and Musicians from a Different Shore: Asians and Asian Americans in Classical Music.

Juliet Winters Carpenter studied Japanese literature at the University of Michigan and the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies in Tokyo. In 1980, Carpenter's translation of Abe Kobo's novel Secret Rendezvous (Mikkai) won the Japan–United States Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature.