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0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: David Pilling Narrator: Timothy Andrés Pabon Publisher: Recorded Books: Gildan Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: April 2014 ISBN: 9781469028897
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In Bending Adversity, Financial Times Asia editor David Pilling presents a fresh vision of Japan, drawing on his own deep experience, as well as observations from a cross section of Japanese citizenry, including novelist Haruki Murakami, former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, industrialists and bankers, activists and artists, teenagers and octogenarians. Through their voices, Pilling captures the dynamism and diversity of contemporary Japan.

Pilling’s exploration begins with the 2011 triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown. His deep reporting reveals both Japan’s vulnerabilities and its resilience and pushes him to understand the country’s past through cycles of crisis and reconstruction. Japan’s survivalist mentality has carried it through tremendous hardship, but is also the source of great destruction: it was the nineteenth-century struggle to ward off colonial intent that resulted in Japan’s own imperial endeavor, culminating in the devastation of World War II. Even the postwar economic miracle—the manufacturing and commerce explosion that brought unprecedented economic growth and earned Japan international clout might have been a less pure victory than it seemed. In Bending Adversity Pilling questions what was lost in the country’s blind, aborted climb to number one. With the same rigor, he revisits 1990—the year the economic bubble burst, and the beginning of Japan’s “lost decades”—to ask if the turning point might be viewed differently. While financial struggle and national debt are a reality, post-growth Japan has also successfully maintained a stable standard of living and social cohesion. And while life has become less certain, opportunities—in particular for the young and for women—have diversified.

Still, Japan is in many ways a country in recovery, working to find a way forward after the events of 2011 and decades of slow growth. Bending Adversity closes with a reflection on what the 2012 reelection of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and his radical antideflation policy, might mean for Japan and its future. Informed throughout by the insights shared by Pilling’s many interview subjects, Bending Adversity rigorously engages with the social, spiritual, financial, and political life of Japan to create a more nuanced representation of the oft-misunderstood island nation and its people.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “David Pilling’s vivid and humane account of Japan is the book we needed. He seamlessly unites moments of thunderous drama with scenes of exquisite serenity, revealing the dynamic at the heart of the country he knows so well. He blends precise analysis and unobtrusive firsthand reporting, allowing his cast of writers, farmers, and pols to struggle, on the page, with Japan’s era of fragile power and its search for renewal.”

    New Yorker

  • “The ground-zero disaster reporting will command the attention of any reader. Pilling vividly recreates the waves of different sorts of destruction. First the earthquake itself…Then the tsunami…[and] the next stage, in which survivors walked across a flattened landscape searching for any sign of the people, belongings, entire neighborhoods that had disappeared.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “A superb book on contemporary Japan that, better than any other I have read, manages to get the reader inside the skin of Japanese society.”

    Japan Times

  • “Not the least of the merits of Pilling’s hugely enjoyable and perceptive book on Japan is that he places the denunciations of two allegedly ‘lost decades’ in the context of what the country is really like and its actual achievements.”

    Financial Times

  • “Pilling, the Asia editor of the Financial Times, is perfectly placed to be our guide, and his insights are a real rarity when very few Western journalists communicate the essence of the world’s third-largest economy in anything but the most superficial ways. Here, there is a terrific selection of interview subjects mixed with great reportage and fact selection...Well written…valuable.”

    Daily Telegraph (London)

  • “Authoritative and entertaining…[Pilling] deftly manages the trick of illustrating grand sweep with small anecdote…This book makes a good fist of disentangling the curious charms of the Japanese and for helping outsides to understand them a little better.”

    Observer (UK)

  • “[Pilling] is a splendid writer. Readers already familiar with Japan will learn more or at least learn to think about it differently; those new to it could ask for no better starting place...Pilling’s Bending Adversity is an important and urgent read.”

    Los Angeles Review of Books

  • “A probing and insightful portrait of contemporary Japan…Pilling concludes that Japan’s economic deflation, declining fertility, and rapidly aging population mirror worldwide trends in other developed countries and the world has much to learn from Japan’s failures and successes.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “A sweeping view of contemporary Japan portrays its complexities and potential for change. The author’s articulate and diverse interviewees—scholars and teenagers, housewives and politicians—vividly and passionately testify to Japan’s cultural contradictions, ambitions, and strategies for survival.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “A vibrant portrait of triumph over adversity.”


  • A Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week, March 2014
  • A New York Times Editor’s Choice
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About the Author

David Pilling is the Asia editor of the Financial Times. He was previously the Tokyo bureau chief for the FT from January 2002 to August 2008. His reporting from Japan and his weekly column on Asia have won several prizes, including from the Society of Publishers in Asia Awards and the UK’s Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards. He lives in Hong Kong.

About the Narrator

Timothy Andrés Pabon is an English- and Spanish-speaking voice-over artist who has worked extensively in advertising and audiobook narration. He has had acting roles on House of Cards and has also been a costar on HBO’s acclaimed series The Wire opposite country music legend Steve Earl. As a stage actor he has worked Off-Broadway at the June Havoc Theatre, and his regional credits include Center Stage, the Shakespeare Theatre, Arena Stage, The Hippodrome, Olney Theatre, Rep Stage, and GALA Hispanic Theatre.