Translation Works
To Japanese
The 3rd Selected Works
A Room Where the Star-Spangled Banner Cannot Be Heard
A Room Where the Star-Spangled Banner Cannot Be Heard
(Seijoki no kikoenai heya)
ENGLISH / Christopher D. Scott published
GERMAN / Matthias Adler published
Originally Published by:
Kodansha (1992)
  • Award-winning American author who writes fiction in Japanese.
  • Semi-autobiographical.
Hideo Levy symbolizes the richness of contemporary Japanese literature. He is well known as the first non-native novelist to write fiction in Japanese. In this book Levy reveals that his visits to Japan piled up until "my life was split in two, one half spent in Japan and the other in the US." What led Levy to write in Japanese? In the afterword he writes: "My immediate response is, Japanese is beautiful. Why wouldn't I want to write in Japanese?"
The title work of this trilogy is set in Yokohama in the late sixties, when the student movement and protests against the Vietnam War were at their height. A seventeen-year-old boy named Ben Isaac, the son of an American diplomat, lives in the consulate. He is rebellious toward his father and feels antipathy toward his native country. The beauty of Japanese takes hold of him, and finally one day he runs away from home, disappearing into the teeming crowds of Shinjuku.
Ben's experiences are a virtual recreation of the author's own youth. Wandering the streets of Tokyo, Ben can hardly decipher the signs around him or make sense of the sounds that reach his ears. Eventually the sounds of Japanese sink into his mind with a revelation similar to that of Helen Keller when her "generous and brilliant teacher taught her the letters to spell "W-A-T-E-R". Many Japanese still cling to the conviction that no foreigner could ever hope to understand Japanese. Surrounded by people like this, Ben and author Levy alike succeed in breaking out of their cage. The other two pieces of fiction in this book, both of which also feature Ben, are Nobemba (November) and Nakama (Comrade).