Castel, Coralie
Bibliothèque nationale de France. Librarian, in charge of the collections of Japanese modern and contemporary literature and arts

Japanese modern and contemporary literature resources at the French national library

In this presentation, I would like to introduce the collections of the French national library in modern and contemporary literature. I would also like to share my reflections about what can be the role of a national library in this specific field, and how to meet the needs of today’s researchers.

The BnF holds about 30 000 volumes in Japanese literature, with an annual increase of about 400 books. The main strength of the collection is that most of the now classic authors are represented with their complete works, or “zenshû”. Complete works, however very expensive, are regarded as basic resources and their purchase has been systematic. However, they raise some questions : first, are they often used? They are of course highly helpful for researchers who are working on one particular author; but their use can also be difficult for more thematic or interdisciplinary research. Second, the publication of zenshû in Japan is plethoric: choices have to be made by the library, and it is crucial to follow the latest trends in research to make the right decisions. Third, the latest contemporary authors have not yet had their complete works published; however, it appears necessary to build a corpus that reflects the present state of literary life of Japan, especially since the Japanese language is, in France, the second most translated language amongst published books every year, after the English language.

The mission of the French national library is to gather resources that must both serve as reference material, and be a reflection of the actual editorial production. Plus, present day researchers often work on transdisciplinary subjects. I hope this presentation will sum up the strengths of the collections in Japanese literature and also give some hints about how to rethink resources in literature, and how we can follow, and even stimulate, the dynamics of research in this field.