22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Hiromi Ito

Portrait Hiromi Ito
© Ali Ghandtschi

Hiromi Ito was born in Tokyo in 1955. She studied literature at the Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo and began making appearances as a poet at an early age. In Japan, Hiromi Ito is considered one of the most important contemporary authors.

She became known in the 1980s through her poems that deal with themes such as the body, pregnancy, birth, desire, and death – which were novel concepts at the time. German readers were first able to gain an impression of the provocative power of her texts in 1993, when the volume »Mutter töten« (tr: Killing Mother) was released in German. The collection of poems and prose deal with, among other things, abortion and hatred of one’s own parents. Her portfolio has been supplemented by a number of other essays and prose texts on a range of topics such as the upbringing of children. Another work by Ito to appear in German translation is »Das anarchische Aschenputtel. Märchen als Medizin für den Hausgebrauch« (1999; tr: The Anarchic Cinderella: Fairy Tales as Medicine for Home Use), which Ito co-authored with her first husband, Masahiko Nishi. The volume presents folk tales from Japan and at the sametime nods to Grimm’s fairy tales, asking about the deeper meaning of evil stepmothers and other fairy tale characters and elements. »Dornauszieher« (2021; tr: Thorn Extractor) is the first translation of one of her novels into German. The title refers to a patron saint who is worshipped in a Tokyo temple: He takes upon himself people’s misfortunes and illnesses, thus freeing them from their suffering. Ito, the novel’s protagonist and a character strongly based on the author, also make a pilgrimage to him. Hiromi Ito lives in California with her husband, thirty years her senior, and three daughters. But to check on her parents, she regularly flies to Japan, the country of her birth. She finds distance from her hectic everyday life at night. As the wife of an artist in failing health, as the mother of three daughters with their respective worries and needs, as the daughter of parents in need of care, as a poet, writer and intellectual, Ito juggles multiple roles that bring special challenges – as does the transition between countries, cultures, and languages. This is negotiated in seventeen chapters, some with mysterious headings such as »The Old Man with the Cheek Growth Finally Meets the Devil and The Followers of the Sparrow Hound Gather«. The novel, which was already published in Japan in 2007 and has won several awards there, combines a wide variety of linguistic styles, moods, and literary allusions, ranging from Japanese myths to Kafka’s »Metamorphosis« and advertising slogans.

Hiromi Ito lives near San Diego, California, since 1997, and in Kumamoto in Southern Japan.