THE PAPER DOOR by Shiga Naoya


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A collection of 17 stories written between 1904-1945 by a pioneering Japanese modernist credited with founding the ""realistic and psychological"" style that dominates contemporary Japanese letters. Spare and lean, the stories tell of murders, suicides, and other deaths with the same cool precision that they describe a moth alighting on a trolley poster, or a young child wetting his pants (another favorite theme). Detail and perception are precise and ultimately hard-edged as the Chinese juggler, Han, slits his wife's throat in the midst of their stage act, and is tried for murder by a strangely sympathetic judge; as a playwright betrays his wife, cuts her off emotionally, then fails to rescue her from suicide; as a visitor to a hot springs, recuperating from a near-fatal accident, watches three animal deaths (a wasp, a rat, a lizard) and relives his own trauma. Stories unfailingly end with a sober, fiat, but perfectly apt sentence or two, rife with portent. Razor-sharp and revelatory on the downside of human nature, the tales are compelling and, at first, deceptively simple. They are, in fact, dense, compact and quite complex. Done with what may seem an unrelievedly chill eye, these are rewarding stories nevertheless--and, at moments, undeniably powerful--though in the end possessing more academic heft than fictional pull.

Pub Date: March 15th, 1987
Publisher: North Point