Imprisoned for ‘socialist thinking’ in 1931, Tokyo-born Genzaburo Yoshino was later commissioned, by a progressive publishing house, to write an ethics textbook for children. However, with Japanese politics becoming increasingly authoritarian and militaristic, it was thought best if the book were to be presented as a novel. How Do You Live tells the story of Copper, a fifteen-year-old schoolboy who begins to think about the complexities of human existence, philosophical ideas, global interconnections and how all these relate to his day-to-day life in Tokyo. Dealing as it does with issues of independent thought, as well as class and poverty, by 1942 it had been banned by the Japanese government and after the Second World War was only allowed to be published in a heavily censored version. Interest in the book was reignited in 2016 after Hayao Miyazaki announced that he was coming out of retirement to turn it into his next – and possibly final – Studio Ghibli film. How Do You Live, in its original version, went on to become the best selling Japanese book of 2018 and has now received an English translation by Bruno Navasky who gives an interview to the publisher here.

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