The Breaking Jewel

A Novel

Makoto Oda. Translated by Donald Keene

Columbia University Press

The Breaking Jewel

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Pub Date: January 2003

ISBN: 9780231126137

136 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $27.00£21.00

Pub Date: January 2003

ISBN: 9780231126120

136 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $75.00£58.00

Pub Date: January 2003

ISBN: 9780231518871

136 Pages

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List Price: $26.99£21.00

The Breaking Jewel

A Novel

Makoto Oda. Translated by Donald Keene

Columbia University Press

Set on an island in the South Pacific during the final days of World War II, when the tide has turned against Japan and the war has unmistakably become one of attrition, The Breaking Jewel offers a rare depiction of the Pacific War from the Japanese side and captures the essence of Japan's doomed imperial aims. The novel opens as a small force of Japanese soldiers prepares to defend a tiny and ultimately insignificant island from a full-scale assault by American forces. Its story centers on squad leader Nakamura, who resists the Americans to the end, as he and his comrades grapple with the idea of gyokusai (translated as "the breaking jewel" or the "pulverization of the gem"), the patriotic act of mass suicide in defense of the homeland.

Well known for his antiestablishment and antiwar sentiments, Makuto Oda gradually and subtly develops a powerful critique of the war and the racialist imperial aims that proved Japan's undoing.
This... novel by one of Japan's antiestablishment writers depicts the horrors of war during the final days of World War II.... The formal style evokes an epic quality that transcends this one small battle....The book is superbly translated and introduced by Keene, a preeminent scholar and professor who has devoted his life to Japan. Library Journal
[This] 1998 novel about the defense of a small South Pacific island against American invasion—its Japanese author's first in English translation—displays a riveting economy and intensity... depicted in unflinchingly graphic detail... this excellent little tale [is] very much something of an Asian Red Badge of Courage. Kirkus Reviews
This is a novel that is intellectually engaging. Persimmon
The Breaking Jewel is heart-rending and tactfully moving. It is also remarkable that Oda (and Keene's translation) proved to be as powerful as a novella. Historical Novels Review
Oda, a prominent and controversial novelist known for his outspoken antiestablishment and antiwar sentiments, gradually and subtly develops a powerful indictment against World War II... The novel openly questions whethergyokusai (literallythe breaking jewel) is truly an act of patriotism or one of futile self-defeat. Translation Review
Oda compresses a lot of literary razzle-dazzle in these 116 pages... On one level we have the narrative of a good fighting story and on another level, a novel of race and class... [that] works on other levels of irony and myth. It is really an impressive job...The Breaking Jewel, indeed, fits our present times. William Witherup, Pacific Reader
With Donald Keene, our most important scholar of Japanese literature, we are guaranteed an accurate and graceful rendering into English as well as a significant novel, the first by Makoto Oda to be translated. Oda has provided a dramatic and compelling story about the Pacific War from the other side. Sidney DeVere Brown, World Literature Today

About the Author

Makuto Oda is a novelist and peace activist. His first literary fame came with the 1961 bestseller Nan demo mite varo (I'll Look at Anything). He is also the author of Hiroshima, first translated into English as The Bomb and later republished as H.Donald Keene is Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature and University Professor Emeritus at Columbia University. He is the author of more than thirty books, most recently, Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852–1912 and Five Modern Japanese Novelists, both published by Columbia. He divides his time between Tokyo and New York City.