Clouds

The latest addition to my website is Fumiko Hayashi‘s 浮雲 (Floating Clouds). Before saying anything else about it, I should point out that this Fumiko Hayashi is nothing to with the politician of the same name and the book is nothing to do with the 19th century novel of the same name by Futabatei Shimei (see Tony’s Reading List for a review of the latter.) This one is a grim novel about failed love in the latter part of World War II and, in particular, in the period after the War. Yukiko Koda is a young woman who has been sexually abused by a relative (though is a not unwilling participant in the abuse) and decides to leave to work as a typist in Vietnam. There she meets a married man, Tomioka, and they have an affair. He has promised to leave his wife and marry her when they return to Tokyo but, when they do return, he is less enthusiastic. Indeed, they continue an off-again/on-again relationship over the course of the book, while both have other relationships. Tomioka is determined to break the relationship off but cannot bring himself to do so. Neither of the two is happy. Indeed, both seem to be thoroughly miserable throughout much of the book, not helped by the difficult situation in post-war Japan. Tomioka, in particular, cannot decide what he wants. He has relationships with four women during the book, getting two of them pregnant, yet is not a womaniser but just cannot control himself when a woman shows an interest in him. It is a sad and miserable tale and, according to Hayashi, meant to show the emptiness of women’s hearts at the time. The book has been reissued by the Columbia University Press. However, I read the original English translation, published in Japan in 1957. The book contains line drawings by a Japanese artist, Sho Tanaka, and, as you can see in the drawing above, the characters look very Western. The picture above is meant to show Yukiko, Tomioka, Kano and Makita, their boss, all Japanese, and yet they do not look at all Japanese to me. Maybe, Tanaka had not read the book!