John Nathan (born 1940) is the translator of Japanese works written by celebrated authors such as Yukio Mishima and Kenzaburō Ōe. Nathan is also an Emmy-award winning producer, writer and director of many films about Japanese culture and society and American business.
Nathan was born in New York City and spent part of his childhood in Tucson, Arizona. He studied at Harvard College and the University of Tokyo. At Harvard, he studied under Edwin O. Reischauer. He is currently the Takashima Professor of Japanese Cultural Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). John Nathan's fields include Japanese culture, Japanese literature, Japanese cinema, the theory and practice of translation, and the sociology of business culture. The first Westerner to graduate as a regular student to the University of Tokyo, he spent many years living and studying in Japan. At the age of 25, Nathan translated Yukio Mishima's The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea. Impressed by Nathan's translation, Mishima requested Nathan sign on as his translator and help Mishima in his quest in being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Nathan was more interested in translating the work of Kenzaburō Ōe. Nathan ultimately refused to translate Mishima 1964 novel Kinu to meisatsu (絹と明察), opting instead to translate Kenzaburō Ōe's A Personal Matter. Mishima, who was considered an "arch-rival" of Ōe, abruptly severed ties with Nathan afterwards. Nathan later received a doctorate in Far Eastern languages from Harvard University. Before teaching at UCSB, Nathan was professor of Japanese literature at Princeton University. He is the author of a definitive biography of novelist Yukio Mishima and he has also translated novels by Mishima and by Nobel laureate Kenzaburō Ōe. When Ōe received the Nobel Prize in 1994, Nathan accompanied him to Stockholm.
Nathan was described by The Japan Times as "the one critic of Japanese literature that towers above the rest."
- Mishima, Yukio (1965). The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-399-50489-1.
- Ōe, Kenzaburō (1968). A Personal Matter. New York: Grove Press.
- Ōe, Kenzaburō (1977). Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness: Four Short Novels. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 978-0-8021-5185-8.
- Ōe, Kenzaburō (2002). Rouse Up O Young Men of the New Age!. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 978-0-8021-1710-6.
- Sōseki, Natsume (2013). Light and Dark. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-16142-8.
- Ōe, Kenzaburō (1965). "Lavish Are the Dead". Japan Quarterly. Vol. 12 no. 2 (April–June 1965 ed.). pp. 193–211.
- Abe, Kōbō (1966). "Stick". Japan Quarterly. Vol. 13 (April–June 1966 ed.). pp. 214–217.
- Abe, Kōbō (1966). "Red Cocoon". Japan Quarterly. Vol. 13 (April–June 1966 ed.). pp. 217–219.
- Mishima: A Biography. Boston: Little, Brown. 1974. ISBN 978-0-316-59844-6.
- Sony: The Private Life. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 1999. ISBN 978-0-395-89327-2.
- Japan Unbound: A Volatile Nation's Quest for Pride and Purpose. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 2004. ISBN 978-0-618-13894-4.
- Living Carelessly in Tokyo and Elsewhere: A Memoir. New York: Free Press. 2008. ISBN 978-1-4165-5345-8.
- Sōseki: Modern Japan's Greatest Novelist. New York: Columbia University Press. 2018. ISBN 978-0-231-17142-7.
- "Tokyo Story: A Profile of Shintaro Ishihara." The New Yorker, April 9, 2001.
- Words, Ideas, and Ambiguities: Four Perspectives on Translating from the Japanese. Howard Hibbett, Edwin McClellan, John Nathan and Edward Seidensticker. Chicago, Ill.: Imprint Publications, 2000.
- "Kenzaburō Ōe: Mapping the Land of Dreams." Japan Quarterly 42(1), January–March, 1995.
- The Japanese, A Film Trilogy: Full Moon Lunch, The Blind Swordsman, Farm Song (1979); music for Farm Song written by Toru Takemitsu
- The Colonel Comes to Japan (1982, Emmy Award) - A film about KFC in Japan.
- Daimyo - The Arts of Feudal Japan (1988)