Nastume Sōseki (1867–1916) was born the youngest of eight children during the last year of the Tokugawa shogunate in Edo, the city shortly to be renamed Tokyo, and became the defining writer of the Meiji period (1868–1912). Raised by foster parents until he was nine, he made a faltering start at school but soon displayed a special aptitude for Chinese studies and later for the English language, ultimately earning an advanced degree in English literature. As an
undergraduate at Tokyo Imperial University, he published an essay on Walt Whitman that introduced the poet’s work to Japan. After teaching for several years, Sōseki was sent in 1900 to England for two years by the Ministry of Education. Upon his return he succeeded Lafcadio Hearn in the English department at Tokyo Imperial University. Sōseki published his first work of fiction in 1905, the opening chapter of what would become the famous satirical novel I Am a Cat. In 1907, offered a position with the Asahi Newspaper publishing company, he left teaching to become a full-time writer, and proceeded to produce novels at the rate of one a year until his
death from a stomach ulcer in 1916. Other major works to have appeared in English translation include Botchan, Kusamakura, The Miner, and Kokoro.
William F. Sibley (1941–2009) was a professor of East Asian languages and civilizations at the University of Chicago. A translator of Japanese fiction and nonfiction, Sibley was at work on Sōseki’s First Trilogy, comprising Sanshirō, And Then, and The Gate, at the time of his death.
Pico Iyer is the author of several books, including Video Night in Kathmandu, The Lady and the Monk, The Global Soul, and, most recently, The Man Within My Head. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and Harper’s. He lives in Japan.