Born in Los Angeles in 1965, Tomoyuki Hoshino returned to Japan with his family before his third birthday and spent the next twenty-three years living in the greater Tokyo-Yokohama area. After graduating with a degree in literature from Waseda University in 1988, he worked for two years as a journalist for the conservative Sankei newspaper. He left that job and Japan to study abroad in Mexico from 1991-92. After briefly returning to Japan, he received a Mexican government scholarship and resumed his studies in Mexico, where he stayed until August of 1995. From 1996-2000, he tried his hand at writing subtitles for Latin American and Spanish films.
His debut novel The Last Gasp was published in 1997 and awarded the Bungei Prize. His second novel The Mermaid Sings Wake Up was published in 2000 and awarded the Mishima Prize. In 2003, he was awarded the Noma Bungei award for Fantasista, a collection of three novellas. His other book-length works include Naburiai (1999), The Poisoned Singles Hot Springs (2002), Lonely Hearts Killer (2004), Alkaloid Lovers (2005), A Worussian-Japanese Tragedy (2005), The Tale of Rainbow and Chloe (2006), We, Kittens (2006), The Examination Room for Plants (2007), Dokushin (2007), Mugendô (2007), and Suizoku (2009).
From 2004-2007, he taught creative writing at Waseda University. He continues to write short stories, novels, and novellas, as well as essays and guest commentaries for newspapers and journals on topics ranging from sports to politics. In 2006, the literary journal Bungei dedicated a special issue to Hoshino's writing that includes interviews, commentaries by other writers and critics, and the short story “No Fathers Club.”
In addition to his time in Mexico, Hoshino has traveled widely throughout Latin America, as well as Spain, Taiwan, Korea, the U.S., England, and India. He has participated in Writers' Caravans with authors from India and Taiwan, and he continues to forge ties with his literary counterparts elsewhere in Asia in particular. His fiction has won him the admiration of notable figures such as the celebrated Korean poet Ji-woo Hwang, who urged Hoshino to continue writing literature with "great depth of feeling." Hoshino is also an avid soccer fan and amateur player whose commentaries on the game (including the politics of the 2002 FIFA World Cup co-hosted by Korea and Japan) have attracted a following independent of his fiction.
Check out translator Brian Richard Bergstrom reading from Tomoyuki Hoshino's We, the Children of Cats:
We, the Children of Cats Author: Tomoyuki Hoshino Translated by: Brian Bergstrom & Lucy Fraser Publisher: PM Press/Found in Translation ISBN: 978-1-60486-591-2 Published August 2012 Format: Paperback Size: 8 by 5 Page count: 288 Pages Subjects: Fiction/Literary Collection $20.00
A man and woman find their genders and sexualities brought radically into question when their bodies sprout new parts, seemingly out of thin air…. A man travels from Japan to Latin America in search of revolutionary purpose and finds much more than he bargains for…. A journalist investigates a poisoning at an elementary school and gets lost in an underworld of buried crimes, secret societies, and haunted forests…. Two young killers, exiled from Japan, find a new beginning as resistance fighters in Peru….
These are but a few of the stories told in We, the Children of Cats, a new collection of provocative early works by Tomoyuki Hoshino, winner of the 2011 Kenzaburo Oe Award in Literature and author of the powerhouse novel Lonely Hearts Killer (PM Press, 2009). Drawing on sources as diverse as Borges, Nabokov, Garcia-Marquez, Kenji Nakagami and traditional Japanese folklore, Hoshino creates a challenging, slyly subversive literary world all his own. By turns teasing and terrifying, laconic and luminous, the stories in this anthology demonstrate Hoshino’s view of literature as “an art that wavers, like a heat shimmer, between joy at the prospect of becoming something else and despair at knowing that such a transformation is ultimately impossible…a novel’s words trace the pattern of scars left by the struggle between these two feelings.” Blending an uncompromising ethical vision with exuberant, free-wheeling imagery and bracing formal experimentation, the five short stories and three novellas included in We, the Children of Cats show the full range and force of Hoshino’s imagination; the anthology also includes an afterword by translator and editor Brian Bergstrom and a new preface by Hoshino himself.
“These wonderful stories make you laugh and cry, but mostly they astonish, co-mingling daily reality with the envelope pushed to the max and the interstice of the hard edges of life with the profoundly gentle ones.” —Helen Mitsios, editor of New Japanese Voices: The Best Contemporary Fiction from Japan and Digital Geishas and Talking Frogs: The Best 21st Century Short Stories from Japan
“Like a heat shimmer on a summer’s day, Hoshino Tomoyuki’s stories tantalize and haunt. From 'Paper Woman' to 'A Milonga for the Melted Moon,' Hoshino writes of people stranded between poles of reality and dream—with each option as uncertain as the other. Wonderfully translated, selected, and presented, this collection of works will be required reading.” —Rebecca Copeland, Washington University in St. Louis, author of Lost Leaves: Women Writers of Meiji Japan and translator of Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino
“What feels most striking and praiseworthy about Hoshino’s work is how he deals with ambiguity—not as a fusion of multiple meanings, nor as their simple coexistence, nor as symbolic of meaning’s absence; rather, he deftly weaves these concepts together and then, in the space between them, makes his escape.” —Maki Kashimada, award-winning author of Love at 6000° and The Kingdom of Zero
Lonely Hearts Killer By Tomoyuki Hoshino Translated by Adrienne Carey Hurley ISBN: 978-1-60486-084-9 Published November 2009 Format: Paperback Size: 8 by 5 Page count: 288 Pages Subjects: Fiction $15.95
“I don’t want to go so far as to say such-and-such was the deciding factor. Only that it’s too late now. From this point onward, we have no choice but to rebuild our relationships anew. For that to happen ... I’ve written it so many times that I’m not rehashing it yet again.”
What happens when a popular and young emperor suddenly dies and the only person available to succeed him is his sister? How can people in an island country survive as climate change and martial law are eroding more and more opportunities for local sustainability and mutual aid? Where can people turn when the wildly distorted stories told on the nightly news are about them? And what can be done to challenge the rise of a new authoritarian political leadership at a time when the general public is obsessed with fears related to personal and national “security”? These and other provocative questions provide the backdrop for this powerhouse novel about young adults embroiled in what appear to be more private matters – friendships, sex, a love suicide, and struggles to cope with grief and work. Lonely Hearts Killer compels readers to examine the relationship between state violence and interpersonal brutality while pointing toward ways out of the escalating terror. PM Press is proud to bring you this first English translation of a full-length novel by the award-winning Japanese author Tomoyuki Hoshino.
For excerpts from the author/translator Q&A, click here.
“Since his debut, Hoshino has used as the core of his writing a unique sense of the unreality of things, allowing him to illuminate otherwise hidden realities within Japanese society. And as he continues to write from this tricky position, it goes without saying that he produces work upon work of extraordinary beauty and power.” --Yûko Tsushima, award-winning novelist
“Reading Hoshino’s novels is like traveling to a strange land all by yourself. You touch down on an airfield in a foreign country, get your passport stamped, and leave the airport all nerves and anticipation. The area around an airport is more or less the same in any country. It is sterile and without character. There, you have no real sense of having come somewhere new. But then you take a deep breath and a smell you’ve never encountered enters your nose, a wind you’ve never felt brushes against your skin, and an unknown substance rains down upon your head.” --Mitsuyo Kakuta, award-winning novelist
For a calendar of speaking events, please click here
The Latest News:
Hidden for 100 Years: Kanno's Secret Message from Prison Many dedicated and wonderful people are working hard on contributions for the PM Press documentary history of anarchism in Japan. The following news (from a major corporate news outlet) comes as we prepare to mark the 100th anniversary of the High Treason Incident (which I discuss briefly in the translator's introduction to Lonely Hearts Killer). Many thanks to Daigo Shima, a Ph.D. student in East Asian Studies at McGill University, for his speedy and expert translation. Note that people's names in the article appear as they would in Japanese, with the surnames first.
Tomoyuki Hoshino on the death of Kenji Nagai Kenji Nagai, a photojournalist, was killed during the protests in Burma last September. Hoshino compares the responses to Nagai's death to the bashing of Japanese aid workers and journalists taken hostage in Iraq.
Who is Tomoyuki Hoshino? PM Press will soon be bringing folks who read English, but who don't read Japanese their first chance to read one of Tomoyuki Hoshino's novels.
Highlights from Tomoyuki Hoshino's Online Journal In his online journal, Tomoyuki Hoshino addresses a wide range of political, social, literary, and cultural concerns and questions. The following journal entries were translated by Brent Lue, who is currently working on a translation of Hoshino’s first novel, The Last Sigh (or The Last Gasp or The Last Breath) – Saigo no toiki. Brent is an undergraduate student in East Asian Studies and Economics at McGill University. He is an expert baker, is active in musical theater, and is 19 years old.
Tomoyuki Hoshino on Nationalism and Baseball If you click here, you can read the original Japanese essay by Hoshino that appeared in the Tokyo Newspaper on April 3, 2006. The following is Jodie Beck's translation of that essay. Jodie Beck is a Ph.D. student in East Asian Studies at McGill University. Ms. Beck is specializing in contemporary Japanese fiction, and her research interests include globalization, neoliberalism, nationalism, and gender studies.For readers (like me) who don't follow baseball, Ichirô Suzuki is a famous and popular player from Japan who currently is an outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, a Major League baseball team in the United States. For readers unfamiliar with the Yasukuni Shrine controversy, please check out this essay for a brief introduction.
We, the Children of Cats: A Review by Ash Brown Experiments in Manga April 10th, 2013
The first story, 'Paper Woman', gives us an insight into Hoshino the writer, right from the very start:
"As I've continued my professional writing career, I've come to think of it as an art that wavers, like a heat shimmer, between joy at the prospect of becoming something else and despair at knowing that such a transformation is ultimately impossible. One could say that a novel's words trace the pattern of scars left by the struggle between those two feelings. Which is why a novel should never be seen as a simple expression of an author's self." p.1 'Paper Woman'
This idea of transformations is an important one for Hoshino. In fact, in this story, the transformation is a very unusual and literal one...
As Bergstrom's illuminating afterword asserts, transformation is the key to We, the Children of Cats. Some of the stories are more realistic (some are even based on or inspired by actual events) while others are more fantastic, but they all deal with transitions, growth, and changing identity in some way. Hoshino's writing style tends to be discursive and his stories aren't always particularly straightforward, but his imagery is powerful and poetic. Every once in a while there would be a thought, idea, or phrase that would momentarily floor me. After reading We, the Children of Cats, even I felt changed or transformed in some nearly indescribable way. We, the Children of Cats isn't an easy collection, at times it can be difficult and even troubling, but I am glad that I put in the effort needed to truly appreciate it.
The lesson Hoshino of the opening story learns is that: "novels are already meaningless, that their meaning has always been illusory." Nevertheless, Hoshino the writer continues to write -- if not to find meaning so at least to capture and present, at least momentarily, the illusory.
With its very different stories -- of varying length (several are, after all, even billed as novellas) and intensity -- the collection can feel a bit unwieldy and is perhaps best read intermittently, rather than in one go. Nevertheless, We, the Children of Cats is an interesting collection, and certainly a good introduction to an interesting writer.
Nearly every character in Hoshino's uneven collection of short stories and novellas yearns to escape the boundaries of their gender, national identity, or, in many cases, their own flesh. Hoshino is an avowed lover of magical realism, and the transformative, dream-like aspects of that genre wield a heavy influence on this work. In "Paper Woman," a writer, with the help of her husband, strives to become like paper—able to contain words but not their meaning—only to meet with tragic consequences. In "The No Fathers Club," dead fathers return to life in the overactive imaginations of a group of outsider school children. With all the symbiosis and osmosis going on in Hoshino's tales, a kind of post-gender eroticism bubbles up, with some characters sprouting new genitalia and fusing with their partners during trysts, while others switch genders so frequently it becomes pointless to try to keep track of who's who. Hoshino manages to offer a bit of political commentary on the uglier aspects of nationalism as well as Japan's harsh treatment of its indigent population following WWII, but the insistent imbalance between what's attainable and what's beyond reach fails to make the collection a satisfying whole. (Nov.)
In the end, by refusing to passively accept conventional truths regarding sexual, cultural and national identity, and inciting in both his characters and readers this revolutionary desire to change, Hoshino's work becomes more political than any open social criticism or ideologically charged novel.
t’s a powerful question, a universal one, and so whether his stories take place in Japan or in Latin America or in a dreamland, Hoshino is adept at striking that raw nerve. Hoshino offers no pat answers, but the way he explores the question has led me to believe he is one of the best authors writing in Japan today. His work demands to be translated and read. Let’s provide the audience for Hoshino that the Paper Woman so desperately craved. Read more | Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Back to reviews | Back to top
Finishing these stories and novellas is like stepping back from a vista where the world has briefly appeared in it's truer or more original and realigned form, shot through with dynamic paradoxes and an unerring ambition to challenge, taking uncharted routes and reconfiguring truths that do indeed lodge themselves in the reader, unreservedly recommended, my thanks go to PM Press. Read more | Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Back to reviews | Back to top
Lonely Hearts Killer By James Hadfield Metropolis February 11, 2010
This is a demanding, messy piece of work, ripe with narrative ambiguities. Subsequent events such as the 2008 Akihabara massacre and the demented media blather over Noriko Sakai have lent it added prescience, resulting in a novel that—let’s not beat around the bush—is more compelling than anything I’ve reviewed in the past year.
By contrast, Mokuren challenges the emerging social Darwinism in an editorial entitled, I Won't Kill, and rightists direct their rage towards her and the residents of her retreat center. Her challenge, and the violent rightist response to it, becomes the center of a media circus, reducing her attempt to emotionally reach people into yet another form of entertainment. If there is a moral to Hoshino's postmodern fable of alienation and impotence, it is that before there can be a political revolution, there must first be a social one within our hearts and minds. Or, even more, a social one renders the need for a political one superfluous.