We were thrilled to see Penguin Random House author Richard Flanagan win the Man Booker Prize for Narrow Road to the Deep North, and even more so because his book draws attention to a great classic. As spring turned to summer in the year 1689, the Japanese writer Matsuo Basho embarked on a foot journey that has inspired poets and pilgrims for centuries. His account of a five-month walk through Edo Japan is at once a collection of haiku by the acknowledged master of the form and a wondrous travelogue that brings to life a countryside in new bloom.
On choosing to borrow Basho’s title, Flanagan wrote, “Basho, the great Japanese haiku poet wrote a haibun—a sort of nature travel journal that combines haiku and prose— with this title. His Narrow Road to the Deep North is a high point of Japanese culture. The Death Railway is a low point of that same culture.”