Which Russian writer influenced the contemporary Japanese literature, why Japanese are so fond of Dostoevsky and when Russian readers were more than ever interested in Japanese literature – these were the questions the experts in literature studies discussed at the round-table at the section ‘Education’ at the VI International Cultural Forum.

Russia-Japan ties are deeply rooted in history and their potential has not been limited so far, said SPbU’s Senior Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Oriental Studies, Associate Professor Aleksei Rodionov in his opening speech at the rounds-table “Two worlds, two words, one ocean: Imagery of Russian and Japanese literatures”.

We can lessen the distance between our literatures and make our readers see the literature of another country as an integral part of life.

SPbU’s Senior Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Oriental Studies, Associate Professor Aleksei Rodionov

The round-table focused on the history of how Russian and Japanese literatures and their imagery were related and discussed which writers influenced these national literatures. In Japan, Futabatei Shimei is seen as a writer and translator who made Russian literature liked by the general public and he therefore is regarded as a creator of the contemporary Japanese language through Russian literature.  He made Gogol, Gorky, Turgenev, and Goncharov accessible to the public, said the Professor of Tokyo University of International Relations Numano Keko and Professor of the University of Tsukuba Kato Iuri.

“Futabatei Shimei stuffed his novel The Drifting Cloud with the allusions to Goncharov’s Oblomov and  The Precipice that he had fragmentally translated into Japanese. Interestingly, just several years before the novel was published, Ivan Goncharov had come to Japan with the expedition of Admiral Putyatin on the Russian Frigate Pallada”, — said the moderator, SPbU’s Associate Professor of the Department of Japanese Studies Liala Khronopulo.

Another Russian writer who has also visited Japan is Boris Pilniak. His essays The Roots of the Japanese Sun and The Story How To Make Stories  unfold this thoughts about what makes our literatures mentally different.

“Pilniak was highly interested in the genre of autobiographic fiction in Japanese literature. It is unique and has no equals in other literatures. It is usually stuffed with the intimate details about a writer’s personal life”, — said Numano Keko.

Today, the most popular Russian writer in Japan is Dostoevsky. In 2007, the translation of Crime and Punishment was published in 1 mln copies. “We wonder how Japanese perceive and interpret Dostoevsky as Christianity is little studied in Japan, while Dostoevsky is all about Christianity. Sure enough, Japanese see philosophy and religion of the writer differently. Still the fact that Japanese are erring in perceiving Dostoevsky can reveal what makes Japanese mentally different”, — said SPbU’s Associate professor Dosia Kidera Ritsuko.

Another highlight for Japan is Chekhov. The film Love and Youth in Takarazuka is set in 1940s and stuffed with the allusions to Chekhov, said SPbU’s Associate Professor Aoma Gakuin Tsutida Kumiko. The monologue of Olga from The Three Sisters is featured in the film when one of the characters tells that they hope for the end of the war and peace. “The beauty and strength of the words do impress my students when we were watching the film. Chekhov's heritage is valuable regardless of the time we are living in”, — said Tsutida Kumiko.

The Senior Secretary of the Professional Union of Writers of Russia Andrei Krasilnikov told about how Russian literature brought Japan to its readers. What he meant is the notes by the marine explorer Golovnin who was imprisoned by Japanese in the early 19th century during the hydrographic expedition across the country that was closed to the world. 5 years after his memoires had been published, they were translated into Japanese and recently they have been broadcast by a Japanese TV channel. I hope that next year, which is a year of cultures, this film will be broadcast in Russia», — said Andrei Krasilnikov.

How Russian perceive Japanese literature was reported by a translator Ekaterina Riabova. The interest to the Japanese literature and culture in Russia first started to gain momentum in 1904-1905. Another surge was in 1960-70s when we had many translations from Japanese. “It was a period when the Haiku “Snail” of Kobayashi Issa was on the rise, nd this image was later used by the brothers Strugatsky, Boris Grebenshchikov, and Viktor Pelevin”, — said Ekaterina Riabova. Last years, the interest to Japanese literature was revived by Grigorii Chkhartishvili, more known as Boris Akunin. Besides, the graphic novels – manga – and non-fiction will be also popular, said the translator.

At the end pf the round-table, the Russian Research institute of Cultural and Natural Heritage named after D.S. Likhachev presented a guide to the Russian cultural heritage in Japan published in Japanese language. It tells about the Orthodox churches in Japan, Russian culture and sports, history of diplomatic relationships and heritage of the Russian-Japanese war. Besides, it has detailed information about the itineraries where Prince Nikolay an artist Vasilii Vereshchagin were travelling in 1890-1891.