Maruya, whose real name was Saiichi Nemura, was born in Tsuruoka city, Yamagata Prefecture on August 27, 1925. His father was a doctor, and apparently wealthy enough to have a big personal library, which whetted Maruya's literary appetite.
Maruya was mobilized into the Japanese Army in March 1945 when still a high school student, but did not see battlefield action as Japan surrendered shortly thereafter. Following the war's end, he completed his high school studies in Niigata, then in 1947 entered the University of Tokyo to major in English literature, although he also studied classical Japanese literature. To develop his own writing style he began translating English works. He translated Joyce's Ulysses in collaboration with Takamatsu Yūichi and Nagai Reiji (1964) and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in 1969. James Joyce's works became a major influence on his writing. After completing his degree, he taught English literature at Kokugakuin University and then at the University of Tokyo. During this time, he wrote several novels, including Ehoba no kao o sakete (エホバ の 顔 を さけて, 1958), Kanata e (彼方 へ, 1962), and Sasamakura (笹まくら, Grass for My Pillow, 1966).
Maruya was also an influential literary critic, publishing reviews in the magazine Shukan Asahi and in the Mainichi Shimbun. Maruya said that improving the quality of book reviews in Japan was one of the things he was most proud of. His criticism and essays include Go-Toba In (後鳥羽 院, The Retired Emperor Go-Toba, 1973), Nihon bungakushi hayawakari (日本文学史 早わかり, A Quick Guide to the History of Japanese Literature, 1976), Asobi jikan (遊び 時間, Play Time, 1976) and Chūshingura to wa nani ka (忠臣蔵 と は 何 か, What is the Chūshingura?, 1984).
Maruya died of heart failure on October 13, 2012.
In 1968 Maruya won the Akutagawa Prize for Toshi no nokori (年 の 残り, The Rest of the Year). In 1972 he published Tatta hitori no hanran (たった ひとり の 反乱, Singular Rebellion), for which he won the Tanizaki Prize. He also received the Kawabata Prize, the Kikuchi Kan Prize for Cultural Merit and the Noma Literary Prize (1985), and the Order of Culture, awarded in 2011 by the Emperor of Japan.
Selected works in translation
- Singular Rebellion. trans. Dennis Keene. Kodansha America. 1986. ISBN 978-0870117633.
- Rain in the Wind: Four Stories. trans. Dennis Keene. Kodansha America. 1990. ISBN 978-0870119408.
- A Mature Woman. trans. Dennis Keene. Kodansha International. 1995. ISBN 978-4770018649.
- Grass for My Pillow. trans. Dennis Keene. Columbia University Press. 2002. ISBN 978-0231126588.
- Mostow, Joshua S. (2003). The Columbia Companion to Modern East Asian Literature. Columbia UP. p. 252. ISBN 978-0-231-11314-4.
- "Prize-Winning Writer Saiichi Maruya Dies at 87". Mainichi.jp. Retrieved 2012-10-14.
- Keene, Donald (1999). Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature of the Modern Era, Volume 1: Poetry, Drama, Criticism. Columbia UP. p. 578. ISBN 978-0-231-11439-4.
- "Novelist–Critic Maruya Dies at 87". Daily Yomiuri. October 16, 2012. Retrieved October 17, 2012.
- Chiaki Yoshimura (October 15, 2012). "Witty to the End, Award-Winning Writer Maruya Dies at 87". Asahi Shimbun. Retrieved October 31, 2012.
- Watanabe, Akira (2010). "Entre James Joyce y Murasaki Shikibu: Saiichi Maruya y la Historia Literaria" (PDF). Contexto-Segunda Etapa (in Spanish) 14 (16).
- O'Neill, Patrick (2005). Polyglot Joyce: Fictions of Translation. U of Toronto P. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-8020-3897-5.
- "Prize-Winning Writer Saiichi Maruya Dies at 87". Kyodo News. October 13, 2012. Retrieved October 17, 2012.
- "Maruya Saiichi Receives Order of Culture" (Press release). Junbungaku. October 25, 2011.