SAMURAI by Hisako Matsubara


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A sour, single-keyed small novel, set in Japan around the turn of the century. Nagayuki is a yoshi--a son given up by his poor family and adopted by a richer one--of the Hayato family, Father Hayato being a respected aristocrat, Noh-play expert, and devotee of the samurai code of honor, pride, stiff acceptance. Given the Hayato daughter in marriage, educated at the best law school, Nagayuki goes off to America to make his fortune unaccompanied by Tomiko, his wife. While he's there, bad fortune strikes everyone concerned: the Hayatos go bankrupt, and Nagayuki's American dream fades fast in the ignominy of being a kimin, a lowly day laborer in fish canneries and apricot orchards. Neither Father Hayato nor Nagayuki is able, good samurais as they are, to admit to each other their respective destitutions. And the victim of such obstinate face-saving is Tomiko, held up in poverty in Japan, unable to join her husband in America--her spirit is all but crushed. Matsubara, a young Japanese woman who writes from Germany in German, drives home a strong, feminist point very well: the entire story is filtered through Tomiko's culturally-dictated paralysis as a woman in a society more taken with its codes than its mercies. Determinist fiction of a very teeth-gritted order--but, though thin and didactic, on its own terms it is undeniably bleak and disturbing.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Times Books