Yoshiyuki Junnosuke: Toward Dusk

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Toward Dusk and Other Stories

YOSHIYUKI Junnosuke


translated by Andrew CLARE
preface by James DORSEY

Yoshiyuki Junnosuke was a sensual writer, whose style is reminiscent of that of novelists such as Tanizaki Jun'ichirō and Nagai Kafū. His works deal with the possibility of emotional purity in the relationships between men and women. Often, the relationship is examined through the agency of the protagonist's association with prostitutes.

In the preface to New Writing in Japan, Mishima Yukio says of Yoshiyuki: "The delicacy of Yoshiyuki's language and sensibility is probably more subtle and sophisticated than that of any Japanese writer since the war...The idée fixe of Japanese youth today—that love is impossible and impracticable—lies deep at the root of Yoshiyuki's thinking."

His elegant prose style is often likened to that of Albert Camus. Howard Hibbett said of Yoshiyuki (in Contemporary Japanese Literature: an Anthology of Fiction, Film and Other Writing Since 1945): "The cool, polished surface of his fiction faithfully reflects a world of mingled frivolity and futility...The urbane refinement of his astringent prose style is much admired."

Toward Dusk, which in 1978 won the Noma Prize, Japan's highest literary award, is considered to be Yoshiyuki's best work in the rensaku form: a series of stories or chapters bound by common theme.

The story ostensibly revolves around Sasa, the middle-aged protagonist, his fascination with virginity and, in particular, his obsessive quest for an emotional purity in his mistress, Sugiko.

In many ways, the main theme is similar to that in The Dark Room (winner of the prestigious Tanizaki Prize; translated into English by John Bester). As the critic James Kirkup pointed out, "The postwar mood of disillusionment made Yoshiyuki see the love lives of men and women as fragile and unreliable, fleeting, irresponsible." Like Nakata in The Dark Room, Sasa also lives for his assignations. And, although (unlike Nakata) he is married with a daughter, his family life is empty and meaningless and his home simply somewhere to stay when he is not seeing his mistresses.

Sasa wished to keep his relationships casual, at arms' length, and he arranges them to suit himself. But, ultimately, he realizes that he and Sugiko must go their separate ways, and that nothing lasts forever.

Toward Dusk is joined here by a selection of some of his finest short stories, and all of the pieces in this collection are published here for the first time in English.

This book deals with explicit sensual and sexual themes and is inappropriate for minors.

Contents

Burning Dolls (Ningyō o yaku)
The Molester (Chi)
At the Aquarium (Suizokkan ni te)
Treatment (Chiryō)
Straw Wedding Anniversary (Wara konshiki)
Midnight Stroll (Shinya no sanpo)
Flowers (Hanataba)
Voice of Spring (Haru no koe)
A Bad Summer (Warui natsu)
Toward Dusk (Yūgure made)


Reviews:

  • ...sex is frightening both for the domesticity to which it might lead and for the dank clamminess with which, in Yoshiyuki's world, it seems always to be linked. [...] This view is, in many ways, deplorable; it is never, however, in Yoshiyuki's tales, less than fascinating: a corrective, useful and ugly, to the hearts and flowers with which we are constantly bombarded.
    David Cozy, Japan Times
  • ...Yoshiyuki Junnosuke is one of the most prolific authors of post-war Japan, and someone recognized by literary legend Yukio Mishima as capturing the essence of modern Japanese youth with unparalleled subtlety. [...] He has been compared to Albert Camus and a notable influence on Haruki Murakami can be observed in the strange stillness of his scenes. [...] the peculiar suspended world he conveyed remained around me as I went about my day.
    David Labi, Metropolis Magazine

Details:

  • Pages: xxvii + 219
  • Trade paperback 5" x 8" (127mm x 203mm)
  • ISBN 978-4-902075-17-5
  • Kurodahan Press Book No. FG-JP0026-L32
  • List Price: US$16.00
  • Cover: "Cherry Blossoms at Nightfall II", by Kyōsuke Tchinai

Buy this book


About the author

Yoshiyuki Junnosuke was born in 1924, entering Tokyo University in 1945 to major in English literature. His first novel, Bara Hanbainin, was published in 1949. His novel Genshoku no Machi was nominated for the Akutagawa Prize in 1952. Other novels include Shūu (Akutagawa Prize) and Hoshi to Tsuki wa Ten no Ana (Grand Prix, Minister of Education Awards). The Dark Room (Anshitsu), his first novel to be translated into English, appeared in 1970 and received the prestigious Tanizaki Prize. Yoshiyuki also translated material into Japanese, including stories from Henry Miller's Nights of Love and Laughter and Insomnia or The Devil at Large.

About the translator

Andrew Clare, a partner in an English law firm, lives near Manchester, England. A graduate of Sheffield University (B.A., Japanese Studies) and Kobe University (Master of Political Science), his literary tastes include the novels of sensual writer Nagai Kafu, the proletarian author Kobayashi Takiji, and Endō Shūsaku, amongst other modern Japanese writers. He has translated Matsumoto Seichō's Pro Bono (Vertical, Inc.), and a variety of short stories.


About the preface author

James Dorsey teaches Japanese literature, culture, and language at Dartmouth College. His first book was Critical Aesthetics: Kobayashi Hideo, Modernity, and Wartime Japan (Harvard University Asia Center, 2009). He also co-edited (with Doug Slaymaker) the book Literary Mischief: Sakaguchi Ango, Culture, and the War (Lexington Books, 2010). It includes two essays and four translations by him.
He is currently pursuing two research projects. The first focuses on how the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor was depicted in wartime Japan; the second is a study of the political folk song movement in Japan during the late 1960s.
In his free time he likes to ride his bicycle through either the backstreets of Tokyo or the muddy hills of New Hampshire. He is also an avid (though not particularly good) practitioner of aikido.


About the cover artist

Kyōsuke Tchinai (智内兄助) was born in 1948 in Ehime, Japan. In 1966, he graduated from Imabari-Nishi high school, and entered the National University of Fine Arts. He received several distinguished awards including The Prize for Excellence at the young Japanese Painters' Exhibition, 1988 and The Yasui Award, 1991. From 1981 onwards, he participated in large group exhibitions (The Cleveland Biennial, USA; the Ueno-no-Mori Grand Prix Exhibition, Japan; the Yasui Award Exhibition, Japan). Since 1983, several big solo exhibitions have been organized in prestigious settings: Tokyo Central Art Museum, The Kitakata Museum, Japan; The Kuma Museum, The Nakata Museum, 2003, Takashimaya and Ehime Fine Arts Museum, 2007, which received over 25,000 visitors. In 2000, he signed an exclusive worldwide contract with the Tamenaga Gallery, which has already organized two solo exhibitions in their Paris gallery, 2002 and 2004. The works of Tchinai are kept in many Japanese museums (Aichi, Imabari, Saitama, Kariya, etc.) as well as in prestigious private collections, where that of Baroness Ariane de Rothschild holds a predominant place.
The work used on the cover is "Cherry Blossoms at Nightfall" (日月櫻図宵).

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