First published in Japanese in 1966, the debut novel of the critically acclaimed author of Singular Rebellion is an unusual portrait of a deeply taboo subject in twentieth-century Japanese society: resistance to the draft in World War II. In 1940 Shokichi Hamada is a conscientious objector who dodges military service by simply disappearing from society, taking to the country as an itinerant peddler by the name of Sugiura until the end of the war in 1945. In 1965, Hamada works as a clerk at a conservative university, his war resistance a dark secret of the past that present-day events force into the light, confronting him with unexpected consequences of his refusal to conform twenty years earlier.
Understated yet powerfully effective.... Maryua's restrained prose mirrors the constriction of Hamada's thoughts and experience, while his amazing attention to detail renders an unquestionably real world for the narrative to exist within.
Many artists have either idealized pre-surrender Japan as a golden age untainted by Westernization or criticized the blind acceptance of military objectives, but Maruya refuses to gloss over the former or treat the latter as more enlightened.
Virtuosic... a cornucopia of delights... Keene's translation dexterously reflects Maruya's linguistic exuberance.
A masterly realistic novel, and one of the best out of the Far East in many years.
This thoughtful book gives a wonderful insight into Japanese life, both the greater cultural beliefs that shape the society as a whole and the minutiae that preoccupy each individual. Entertaining, informative and compassionate, this is a very worthwhile read. A tribute must also be paid to the translator.
Janet Mary Tomson
[A] complete artistic success [in] its riddling marrative method... precise, mysterious, and moving.
Grass for My Pillow
Postscript: Sugiura's Travels