The Shade of Blossoms
Translated with an Introduction by Dennis Washburn
Translation of a powerful Japanese novel set in the Ginza bar scene of the 1950s.
O_oka Sho¯hei (1909-88) was a distinguished member of the Japanese literary establishment for more than four decades following the end of the Pacific War. He was a prolific writer and active translator of French literature, most notably the novels of Stendahl. A protege of the influential critic Kobayashi Hideo (1902-83), O_oka secured his reputation with such works as the novel Fires on the Plain and the memoir Taken Captive: A Japanese POW's Story that recount his experiences as a soldier in the Philippines during World War II.
While the war was the defining experience for O_oka, his work exhibits enormous range and depth. The Shade of Blossoms, for which he was honored in 1961 with both the Mainichi and the Shincho¯ literary prizes, is a novel of manners, and certainly the setting of the novel, the demimonde of the Ginza bar scene in the 1950s, and its subject, the aging bar hostess Yo¯ko, seem far removed from the universe of battle. Nonetheless, The Shade of Blossoms not only shares key elements of style but also extends in important ways the moral concerns of his earlier works.
The Shade of Blossoms provides a disturbing view of lives at the margins of Japanese society. O_oka's is a powerfully ethical literature that describes the inner search for meaning and identity in a world where received values have been disrupted by war or by social upheavals.
Praise / Awards
". . . exhibits the same moral force which he has used so effectively in his past work. This is a fascinating plunge into the margins of Japanese society."
--New York Theatre Wire, www.nytheatre-wire.com/gen1104.htm
"Dennis Washburn has faithfully captured the tone of Ooka's earthy novel, rendering artfully the terse dialogue and sharp narrative descriptions of the seedy world of a life lived in the shadow of younger women, callous men, and a changing society. "
--Erik R. Lofgren, Bucknell University, World Literature Today, Spring 1999
"Shohei Ooka's novel about a bar hostess in postwar Tokyo is a bracing alternative to the more familiar geisha stories that have appealed to romantic American readers."
--New York Times
"Despite the dry irony of Shohei's prose, there is great pathos in this story of the little bar hostess whose circumstances overwhelm her. This edition includes an informative introduction by the translator and an enlightening 1972 postscript by the author."
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