Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Nobuo Kojima's "Embracing Family"

I've just come across what sounds like a fascinating modern classic from Japan: Embracing Family, by Nobuo Kojima.

From the review by Don Morrison in TIME Asia Magazine:
Japan was teetering on the high heels of history, poised uncertainly between East and West, tradition and modernity, the tatami and the Twist. It was the early 1960s and, after a traumatic American occupation, the country was irreversibly democratic, newly prosperous and thoroughly confused.

Out of that fog stepped Nobuo Kojima, already one of Japan's leading writers, with a novel that caught the mood of the nation. Hoyo Kazoku, or Embracing Family, sold briskly, won the prestigious Tanizaki Junichiro Literary Prize—and then, much like Kojima, sank into obscurity. Now, 41 years later, the book is being published in English. It offers a frank look back at a pivotal moment in modern Japanese history and at the author who helped define it.
There's more from this excellent review: click here to read it.

From the publisher:

Set during the U.S. Occupation following World War II, Embracing Family is a novel of conflict—between Western and Eastern traditions, between a husband and wife, between ideals and reality. At the opening of the book, Miwa Shunsuke and his wife are trapped in a strained marriage, subtly attacking one another in a manner similar to that of the characters in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? When his wife has an affair with an American GI, Miwa is forced to come to terms with the disintegration of their relationship and the fact that his attempts to repair it only exacerbate the situation. An award-winning novel, critics have read this book as a metaphor of postwar Japanese society, in which the traditional moral and philosophical basis of Japanese culture is neglected in favor of Western conventions.

Nobuo Kojima is the author of more than thirty volumes of fiction‚ essays‚ and criticism. He has been awarded the Akutagawa Prize‚ the Tanizaki Junichiro Literary Prize‚ and the Minister of Education Prize. In addition to his own writing, he has translated the works of William Saroyan and J. D. Salinger‚ among others‚ into his native Japanese. Embracing Family is his first book translated into English.

--Marshal Zeringue