Long Belts and Thin Men: The Postwar Stories of Kojima Nobuo

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Long Belts and Thin Men:

The Postwar Stories of
KOJIMA Nobuo


Introduced and translated by

Lawrence ROGERS

Kojima Nobuo is best-known in English for his outstanding novella, "Amerikan sukuuru" (1954, "The American School"), which earned the Akutagawa Prize that year. Strongly affected by World War II and the postwar era, his style evolved into a powerful, often painfully honest satire depicting the Japanese male as a Milquetoast, under the thumbs of women and society in general. Influenced by Gogol and other giants of Russian literature, Kojima's style and technique immerse the reader in the doubts and dilemmas of his characters to powerful effect.

Kojima's award-winning story, "The American School," depicts the visit of a group of Japanese English-language teachers to an international school for the children of Americans and others living in Japan. The reactions of the educators as they walk four miles to the school and come into contact with transplanted American culture for the first time are both touching and comical; the perfect satire. Many of his stories from this period deal with the irony, pain, and internal turmoil of men who have not come to grips with the society of post-War Japan, or their place within it.

In addition to "The American School," this volume contains a number of his other important works, illuminating the trials faced by the Japanese following World War II, individually and as a society, through the eyes of a succession of world-weary and ineffectual protagonists.

Contents

  • The Rifle (小銃)
  • The Smile (微笑)
  • Voices (声)
  • The American School (アメリカン・スクール)
  • The Black Flame (黒い炎)
  • Buffoon in an Alien Land (異郷の道化師)
  • A Certain Day (或る一日)
  • The House of the Hooligans (狼藉者のいる家)
  • In Our Forties (四十代)

Reviews

  • Japan is the prototypical shame-based culture and the protagonists of Kojima fiction (including a Nisei leading character) are often paralyzed by fear of doing something shameful. ... [In "American School", the] shame-drenched protagonist, Isa, is an English teacher terrified of having to actually speak the language to a native (certain to be shamed by mistakes and/or being incomprehensible). He is trapped, in borrowed and acutely uncomfortable shoes, in a group of Japanese teachers of English...
    —Stephen O. Murray, Japanese Culture Reflections
  • An excellent introduction to one of the writers overshadowed by the likes of Kawabata, Mishima and Ōe. ... an excellent collection, one I’d recommend to fans of Japanese writing—'The American School' and 'Buffoon in an Alien Land' would be good value on their own.
    Tony's Reading List
  • Japan’s postwar years were marked by raw needs and wounds, as well as great societal change. A glimpse of the era is offered in this collection of stories, most of which appear in English for the first time. ... Ambiguity and defeat imbue most of the characters, drawn in a style both detached and yet oddly earnest.
    Nicolas Gattig, Japan Times

Details

  • Pages: xvi + 239
  • Trade paperback 5" x 8" (127mm x 203mm)
  • ISBN: 978-4-902075-76-2
  • Kurodahan Press Book No. FG-JP0044L
  • List Price: US$16.00
  • Cover: Johnny Wales

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About the author

Kojima Nobuo 小島 信夫 (1915–2006) is recognized as one of the leading Japanese writers of the postwar era. He was well-read in both Japanese and Western literature, and in addition to his writing was also a professor of English literature at Meiji University in Tokyo and a critic, as well as translating major American writers including Dorothy Parker, Irwin Shaw, and Bernard Malamud.
While he was justly appreciated for his gentle satire, there was probably no writer of short fiction in mid-20th century Japan who more skillfully bridged the thematic and tonal gap between the mindless cruelties of war and the subtle ironies of life under the American Occupation. Kojima is able to vividly recreate both the brutality of a sadistic squad leader in "The Rifle," as well as inject wry humor into his portrayal of the feckless Isa, the insecure English teacher in "The American School," for whom the prospect of actually speaking the language fills him with terror.


About the translator

Lawrence Rogers is emeritus professor of Japanese at the Hilo campus of the University of Hawai'i, and editor of the anthology Tokyo Stories: A Literary Stroll, recipient of the 2004 translation award from the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture, Columbia University. He has previously translated Fair Dalliance: Fifteen Stories by Yoshiyuki Junnosuke and Citadel in Spring by Agawa Hiroyuki for Kurodahan Press.

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