- May 14, 1982
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Biographical / Historical
Donald Keene (June 18, 1922 - ) was a scholar, historian, and translator of the Japanese language born in Brooklyn, NY. He received his bachelor's degree from Columbia University in 1942. While at Columbia, Keene studied Chinese, but in 1941, changed his study to Japanese. After this, he joined the Navy language school at Berkeley, where he trained to become an interpreter and intelligence officer. The first time he visited Japan was in December 1945 for about one week. The Navy sent him there by accident, but during this time he tried to locate and visit families of POWs until he had to go back to Hawaii. He did not get to go to Japan as a student until 1953, after the occupation had ended. In the United States, Keene used his language skills to bring Japanese literature to the West. In the 1950s, he translated and compiled a two volume anthology to introduce university students to Japanese literature. He later went on to teach literature at Columbia University. Keene became an official citizen of Japan at the age of 89. He said he plans to spend his final years in Japan.