A fascinating memoir by Egypt-born American literary theorist and writer Ihab Hassan about his life in Japan. Part recollection, part cultural perception, Between the Eagle and the Sun records his journey, living and seeing himself sometimes as another, assaying always to read the hieroglyphs of his past in the scripts of Japan. As lucid as it is intensely felt, at once lyrical and critical, the work offers a beguiling vision of Japan and, by tacit contrast, of America. For writing, the author says, is more than praise or blame, it is also knowledge, empathy, and delight. These attributes are evident in Hassan's treatment of Japanese culture, its people and scenes. Indeed, the people, rendered in vibrant portraits throughout the book, abide when all the shadows of romance and exasperation have fled.
True to its moment, the work also reinvests the forms of memoir, travel, and quest. Cultural essays, travel anecdotes, autobiographical meditations, portraits of Japanese friends, a section titled "Entries, A to Z," fit into a tight frame, with clear transitions from one section to another. The style, however, alters subtly to suit topic, occasion, and mood.
Japan may not hold the key to this planet's future; no single nation does. Yet the continuing interest in its history, society, and people and the incresed awareness of its recent trends and growing global impact engage an expanding audience. Avoiding cliches, sympathetic to its subject yet analytical, unflinching in judgment, and withal highly personal, Between the Eagle and the Sun offers a unique image of its subject by a distinguished and well-traveled critic, at home in several cultures.
“Hassan’s description of his life in Japan and the people he knew there is beautifully written, and the different voices all contribute to the creation of a many layered portrait of Japan. His highly personal observations reflect the sensitivity of an unusually gifted and cultured man.”
—Donald Keene, author of So Lovely a Country Will Never Perish: Wartime Diaries of Japanese Writers and Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan
"Using his cast of real people, who are also the lenses through which we view, Hassan has presented Japan with a singular honesty and a lack of pretension that is rare indeed."
—Donald Richie, author of Japanese Portraits: Pictures of Different People and coauthor of Travels in the East
"A gifted raconteur and superb stylist, Professor Hassan invites the reader to join him in a journey toward understanding another society and its people. At once admiring, critical, baffled, judgmental, speculative, and respectful."—Robert J. Smith, Cornell University
“The parallels and contrasts of Japanese and American literatures induce the reader into apprehending the essential difference in culture, psychology, and pattern of thinking, which renders the book unique and attractive.”
—International Buddhist University Bulletin