Lonely Woman

Takako Takahashi. Translated by Maryellen Toman Mori

Columbia University Press

Lonely Woman

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Pub Date: February 2004

ISBN: 9780231131261

192 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $40.00

Pub Date: February 2004

ISBN: 9780231534758

192 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $39.99£30.00

Lonely Woman

Takako Takahashi. Translated by Maryellen Toman Mori

Columbia University Press

Replete with madwomen, murderers, musicians, and mystics, Lonely Woman dramatically interweaves the lives of five women. It remains Takako Takahashi's most sustained and multifaceted fictional realization of her concept of "loneliness." Her fiction typically features a woman for whom dreams and fantasies, crime, madness, sexual deviance, or occult pursuits serve as a temporary release from her society's definitions of female identity. The combination of surrealist, feminist, and religious themes in Takahashi's work makes it unique among that of modern Japanese women writers.

The five individually titled short stories that constitute Lonely Woman are linked by certain characters, themes, and plot elements. In the first story, "Lonely Woman," a series of arson incidents in her neighborhood causes a nihilistic young woman to become fascinated with the psychology of the person who perpetrated the crimes. Her fantasies of the euphoric pleasure of setting a fire heighten her awareness of her own violent tendencies. "The Oracle" portrays a young widow who becomes convinced, through several disturbing dreams, that her late husband was unfaithful to her. She devises a cruel, ritualistic act as a strategy for defusing her sense of helpless rage. In "Foxfire," a store clerk has a series of encounters with sly, seductive youngsters and is revitalized by her discovery of the criminal and sexual impulses that lurk beneath their innocent façades. In "The Suspended Bridge," a bored housewife's passion is rekindled when a man with whom she once had a sadomasochistic relationship reenters her life. "Strange Affinities" recasts crime, madness, and amour fou as catalysts of a process of spiritual enlightenment: an old woman searches for an elusive man who seems to embody the bliss of self-renunciation.
[A] meticulously observed world.... Among the beneficial jolts of reading Takahashi's work is not just the liberating nihilism and the fruitful transgression that we all—male or female alike—sometimes want and almost never get, but the emotional honesty that blazes away on each page.... Though several of Takahashi's stories have been translated, her availability has never been commensurate with her importance. This sympathetic translation of a seminal work offers the foreign reader a coherent view of her intensely moral world.... Maryellen Mori has provided, in addition to the translation, an illuminating introduction and an unusually full bibliography. Columbia University Press will release the volume in March. Already I am tempted to call it the most interesting translation of Japanese literature this year. Donald Richie, The Japan Times
A fascinating literary work. Booklist
Takahashi'sLonely Woman is a subtly interwoven collection of short stories about disaffected women. The five stories offer a delightful introduction to Takahashi's oeuvre.... Through the tales of these lonely woman—extraordinary for their heightened self-awareness more than their friendlessness—Takahashi offers a sort of deconstructionist feminism. San Francisco Chronicle
Lonely Woman by Takako Takahashi is a beautifully intricate collection of five linked stories, all true to the title concept.... [and] the message that loneliness and misapprehension are the trade-offs for the fierce independence these women so crave has burned itself vividly into the core of the book. Melanie Danburg, Houston Chronicle
Each of [Lonely Woman's] five stories has a strong, often violent, plot: arson, adultery, crime, suicide, sickness, and war figure prominently. But instead of being told frontwards, from events, the stories are told inside out, from the strange dream-like mood in which the characters edge into those events.... [Mori] has deftly and elegantly translated the stories in this volume and added an illuminating introduction. Janine Beichman, Washington Times
Mesmerizing and nightmarish as a never-ending fever dream Yumi Sakugawa, Pacific Citizen
Translator's Acknowledgments
Introduction
Note on This Translation
Lonely Woman
The Oracle
Foxfire
The Suspended Bridge
Strange Bonds
Selected Bibliography

About the Author

Takako Takahashi has published prolifically in several genres—short stories, novels, essays, memoirs, and translations of French literature. Her novel Child of Wrath won the prestigious Yomiuri Prize.Maryellen Toman Mori has published numerous essays on and translations of Japanese literature since earning her Ph.D. in that field at Harvard University. Her translation of Abe Kobo's novel, Kangaru noto (Kangaroo Notebook), won the 1997 PEN Center USA West Literary Award in Translation. Mori has lived in Japan for five years.