geese

The latest addition to my website is Mori Ōgai‘s 雁 (The Wild Geese). This is a gentle novel of love. Okada is a medical student at Tokyo University, a good-looking, very fit young man, who enjoys his evening walk, visiting second-hand bookshops. On returning from his walk, he has been accustomed to seeing an attractive woman, returning from the bath-house to her house. He is clearly attracted to her. Okada and the unnamed narrator live in a student boarding-house, where there are servants to run errands for the students. One of them, Suezo, has taken to lending the students money and has done very well at it. He is married with children but is getting tired of his wife, so when he hears a young woman playing the samisen and then sees what an attractive woman she is, he is taken to her. The woman, Otama, lives alone with her father, who has financial difficulties. It is agreed that Suezo will provide a house for Otama, who will be his mistress, and a separate one for her father, which he does. However, when Otama, realises that Suezo is a money-lender and despised in the neighbourhood, she starts to have her doubts. We gradually realise that Otama is the young woman Okada has been seeing. But will they actually speak to one another? Ōgai tells his story very well, both in describing the growing attraction of Okada and Otama to one another as well as keeping us guessing what will happen. It is very Japanese in style but that is part of its attraction for us.