Brian is a lecturer and translator currently based in Montréal after living in Chicago, Kyoto, and Yokohama. After graduate school at University of Chicago and Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, he has worked over ten years in the East Asian Studies Department at McGill University and has published academically in the peer-reviewed journals Mechademia, positions: asia critique, and Japan Forum on Japanese literature and contemporary society.
As a translator, Brian has worked in a variety of fields for over 20 years. He specializes in literary translation, many times working closely with living authors. His published translations include the collection We, the Children of Cats by Tomoyuki Hoshino (PM Press), which was longlisted for the 2013 Best Translated Book Award, the short story “See” by Erika Kobayashi, which was the first runner-up in Asymptote’s Close Approximations Translated Fiction Contest in 2017, and The Shining Sea by Koji Suzuki, bestselling author of the Ring novels.
His translation of Erika Kobayashi's novel Trinity, Trinity, Trinity was published by Astra House in 2022 and won the 2022-2023 Japan-US Friendship Commission (JUSFC) Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature, and his translation of Kobayashi's collection Sunrise: Radiant Stories is forthcoming in 2023, also from Astra House.
Other translations of his have appeared in venues including Granta, Aperture, LitHub, CrimeReads, Queer: LGBTQ Writing from Ancient Times to Yesterday (Head of Zeus, 2021), and The Art and Craft of Asian Stories (Bloomsbury, 2021).
Sunrise: Radiant Stories, by Erika Kobayashi
Sunrise is a collection of interconnected stories continuing Erika Kobayashi’s examination of the effects of nuclear power on generations of women. Connecting changes to everyday life to the development of the atomic bomb, Sunrise shows us how the discovery of radioactive power has shaped our history and continues to shape our future.
In the opening, eponymous story “Sunrise,” Yoko, born just days after Nagasaki was decimated, mirrors her life to the development of nuclear power in Japan. In “Precious Stones,” four daughters take their elderly mother to the restorative waters of a radium spring, exchanging tales of immortality. In “Hello My Baby, Hello My Honey,” a woman goes into labor during the final days of WWII. And finally, “The Forest of Wild Birds” shows Erika visiting the site of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster, touring grounds that were once covered in green.
Translator Brian Bergstrom returns in this collection, bringing to life Kobayashi’s unsettling, lasting, and striking prose. The stories in Sunrise force a reckoning with the lasting effects of known and unknown histories and asks how much of modern life is influenced by forces outside of our control.
Trinity, Trinity, Trinity, by Erika KobayashiJune 2022 (Astra House Books)
The Shining Sea, by Kōji SuzukiJuly 2022 (Vertical/Kodansha USA)
"Precious Stones" by Erika Kobayashi, in Elemental: Earth Stories2021 (Two Lines Press)
Animals Brag About Their Bottoms, by Maki Saito2020 (Greystone Kids)
"Pink" by Tomoyuki Hoshino, in The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories2018 (Penguin)
"Red" by Nakamoto Takako & "The Path to Proletarian Realism" by Kurahara Korehito, in For Dignity, Justice, and Revolution: An Anthology of Japanese Proletarian Literature2016 (University of Chicago Press)
We, the Children of Cats: Stories and Novellas by Tomoyuki Hoshino2012 (PM Press)
Awards and Recognition
- Winner of 2022-2023 Japan-US Friendship Commission (JUSFC) Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature for "Trinity, Trinity, Trinity" by Erika Kobayashi (Astra House 2022)
- Runner-up in Asymptote's 2017 Close Approximations Translated Fiction Contest for my translation of "See" by Erika Kobayashi
- Longlisted for 2013 Best Translated Book Award for "We, The Children of Cats: Stories and Novellas by Tomoyuki Hoshino" (PM Press, 2012)
Press and Media Mentions
- Translation for CrimeReads: "My Poison Snake" by Erika Kobayashi
- Shelf Awareness Q&A: Erika Kobayashi and Brian Bergstrom on Trinity, Trinity, Trinity
- Co-translation with Nishimura Keiko of "The Purehearted Major: On Innocence," by Kotani Mari (Mechademia: Second Arc, Fall 2021)
- Translation for LitHub: "A Tale of Three Diaries: On Destroyed Landscapes and Lost Narratives: Erika Kobayashi Travels from Auschwitz to Fukushima"
- Close Approximations: In Conversation With Fiction Runner-up, Brian Bergstrom
- Japan Times Review of We, the Children of Cats (2013)
- Translation of "Pink" by Tomoyuki Hoshino, including Translator's Note, for Granta
- Translation for Aperture: Long interview with photographer Kikuji Kawada (2019)