Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Be still my red reader's heart

Yippee! After several months of yearning (see earlier posts here and here), I finally have in my hot little hands a copy of The Crab-Canning Ship by Takiji Kobayashi, translated by Frank Motofuji and published along with another Kobayashi novella, The Absentee Landlord, by the University of Washington Press as The Factory Ship in 1973.The Crab-Canning Ship is the story of a struggle by shipboard workers horribly exploited by the crabbing and processing industry. Its 1929 publication caused a sensation in Japan, and drew the imperial government's attention and enmity, driving Kobayashi underground. In 1933 undercover police agents trapped him, captured him, beat and tortured him and, when he refused to squeal on his communist organizer comrades, murdered him. Fast forward to 2008-2009: the book is in the midst of a huge revival in Japan, where its message of class struggle resonates with masses of young workers facing cuts, takebacks, layoffs, rising prices, all the ills of the deepening capitalist economic crisis.

After some floundering, I managed to track down a copy, which I now have on a one-month inter-library loan. Oh how I wish to own this book. But reading it will have to do. I'll get to it after I finish Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong'o, which I'm about three-quarters of the way through and loving. I look forward to blogging about both books as wonderful refutations of the literature-can't-be-political dogma.