As long ago as 1916 William Butler Yeats and Ezra Pound were excitedly discovering Noh plays. In 1922 Aurthur Waley's fine translations appeared in a collection titled The Noh Plays of Japan. Since then, interest has grown steadily in this unique art form.
At the heart of Noh lies the accidental encounter through which the workings of Fate are revealed. Often one of the persons is not what he or she seems to be: perhaps a ghost or a person fallen from high estate. Mishima has been marvelously successful in preserving the weird and haunting mood of classical Noh, but his characters and situations have the directness and hardness of an encounter on a city street.
The emotion of these plays is so communicable that one can imagine them staged anywhere in the world. Or they can be read and reread in Donald Keene's excellent translation.
~ Donald Keene was born in New York City in 1922. He was educated at Columbia, Harvard, and Cambridge universities. From 1948 to 1953 he taught at Cambridge, after which he spent two years in Japan as a Ford Fellow. In 1955 he became an Assistant Professor of Japanese at Columbia. His published works include two anthologies of Japanese literature, a general introduction to the subject, and studies of Japanese literary and historical themes. In 2002, he was awarded one of Japan's highest honors, the title "Person of Cultural Merit" (Bunka Koro-sha), for his distinguished service in the promotion of Japanese literature and culture. (224 pages / $25)