School of Freedom
Translated and with an Afterword by Lynne E. Riggs
With true-to-life characters, situations that vividly evoke their times, and even a happy ending, Shishi Bunroku brings a new dimension to Japanese literature in English
The victors of World War II had one idea about what freedom should be for Japan, the leftists had their notions, national patriots had theirs, and men and women had theirs. Yet for everyone, “freedom” had some lessons to teach of its own. In 1950s Tokyo, the outlines of freedom were being tested at every level of society: by the long-suppressed socialists and communists through the labor movement, by brokers and black marketeers in the economy, by drug dealers and strip shows on the seamy side of city life, in literature by the translation of D. H. Lawrence’s controversial novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover, in language by young people reveling in the influx of English brought by the Occupation personnel and American culture, and by retiree fanciers of festival music as an escape from the disappointments of progress.
Unfolding in this “school of freedom,” the stories of Iosuke and Komako bring intimately to life the experience of Japanese rising out of defeat in war and exploring their manhood and womanhood in these new surroundings. Serious as its themes and landscapes are, School of Freedom is a comedy catalyzed by familiar caricatures and juxtaposed perspectives—of men and women, of the elderly and the young, of old and new. With true-to-life characters, situations that vividly evoke their times, and even a happy ending, Shishi Bunroku brings a new dimension to Japanese literature in English.
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