A remaking of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights set in postwar Japan
A True Novel begins in New York in the 1960s, where we meet Taro, a relentlessly ambitious Japanese immigrant trying to make his fortune. Flashbacks and multilayered stories reveal his life: an impoverished upbringing as an orphan, his eventual rise to wealth and success—despite racial and class prejudice—and an obsession with a girl from an affluent family that has haunted him all his life. A True Novel then widens into an examination of Japan’s westernization and the emergence of a middle class.
The winner of Japan’s prestigious Yomiuri Literature Prize, Mizumura has written a beautiful novel, with love at its core, that reveals, above all, the power of storytelling.
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Minae Mizumura is one of the most important novelists writing in Japan today. Born in Tokyo, she moved with her family to Long Island, New York, when she was twelve. She studied French literature at Yale College and Yale Graduate School. Her other novels to date are Zoku meian (Light and Darkness Continued), a sequel to the unfinished classic Light and Darkness by Natsume Soseki, and the autobiographical Shishosetsu (An “I” Novel from Left to Right). She lives in Tokyo.
Juliet Carpenter studied Japanese literature at the University of Michigan and the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies in Tokyo. Carpenter’s translation of Kobo Abe’s novel Secret Rendezvous won the 1980 Japan–United States Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature.
A miracle happened to me two years ago.
It was when I was staying in Palo Alto in northern California, writing my third novel, or, more precisely, trying to write it. I lacked confidence, and progress was slow. Then, out of the blue, I was made a gift of a story, “a story just like a novel.” What is more, the story was meant for me alone. It concerned a man whom I knew, or rather whom my family knew, in New York at one time. This was no ordinary man. Leaving Japan with nothing, he arrived in the United States and made a fortune there, literally realizing the American dream. His life had taken on the status of legend among Japanese communities in New York—yet no one knew that he’d had another life back in Japan, one marked by the poverty-stricken period that followed World War II. The tale of that life would almost certainly have disappeared, lost in the stream of time, if a young Japanese man who happened to hear it had not then crossed the Pacific and hand-delivered it to me in Palo Alto, like a precious offering. Of course, the preciousness of his offering was something the young man never knew. As far as he could tell, he merely traveled on his own initiative, sought me out of his own accord, then went away when he’d told the story he wanted to tell. Yet I felt as if some invisible power had arranged to bring this messenger to me.
He took all night to tell me the story. Outside, the heaviest rainstorm in California for decades raged, trapping us in the house. The angry power of nature must have affected my nerves: when he had finished, I was in shock. It felt uncanny that I should have known someone who had lived such a life—and that, by a strange series of coincidences, his tale should have been delivered to me, and me alone.
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