GRASS FOR MY PILLOW by Saiichi Maruya


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A draft dodger’s experiences during and following WWII stimulate a searching criticism of the psychology of rebellion in this superb 1966 novel by the Japanese author of, among others, Singular Rebellion (1990). Maruya observes protagonist Shokichi Hamada both in 1945, when he eludes conscription and travels throughout his country incognito, and 20 years later, when Hamada, who has renamed himself Sugiura, works as a registry clerk at a prestigious small university, attempts to recapture his discarded identity, and at last pays the price for his dereliction from duty. Hamada’s—and the novel’s—criticisms of Japanese militarism and emperor-worship are indeed scathing. But the great achievement here is that these are balanced by unrelenting analyses of the weaknesses in Hamada’s character, the further damage he has done to himself by living a buried life, and his genuinely mixed feelings about his country and culture and their claims on his allegiance. A masterly realistic novel, and one of the best out of the Far East in many years.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-231-12658-1
Page count: 345pp
Publisher: Columbia Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2002