January 21, 2013

The Name of the Flower by Kuniko Mukoda



The title of this collection comes from the very first short story. Kuniko Mukoda writes piercing vignettes of Japanese life which are really not so different from anyone's life; we all have longings, insecurities, or choices we regret. The lives we lead are highlighted in her work, each story becoming an irony to ponder and reflect on when finished.

In "The Name of the Flower" a woman who has taught her husband everything about flower arranging discovers he is seeing a woman who is named after a flower...

In "Small Change" a mouse-like man named Shoji falls in love with a large, thick-waisted, girl who at the end of the story undergoes surgery to change her appearance...

In "I Doubt It" a man sits by his father's bedside in the hospital, struck by the horrible stench coming from his father's mouth, noting at the end of his reflections that he really is no different himself...

In "The Otter" Takuji unwillingly compares his wife to an otter because "otters love to tease. Apparently they kill numerous fish, not for eating, but just for the fun of it."

Each story in this collection, and there are nine more I haven't summarized here lest I spoil them, is an episode in itself. It came as no surprise to me to discover that Mukoda wrote radio scripts to support her hobbies of skiing, mountaineering and traveling. By the 1970's she was one of the most sought after scriptwriters in Japan. Yet, she is also known for her essays and short stories. Mukoda earned the Naoki Prize for Popular Fiction with "The Name of The Flower", "The Otter", and "I Doubt It."

I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed reading her work this weekend. Thank you to Stone Bridge Press for sending me this collection of Japanese stories. I'd like to pass it on to another lover of Japanese fiction. Simply leave a comment if you wish to be considered for the give away, which is international, of course.

1.27.13 I have decided to give this book to Tony for his outstanding idea to host January in Japan. He has made it a marvelous month, filled with all kinds of information about Japanese authors and literature, and I am thrilled to add this book to his collection. Thank you, Tony.

16 comments:

  1. This sounds like a fascinating collection of stories, Bellezza, and I would love to read it.

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  2. These stories sound absolutely transfixing! Please enter me in your giveaway. Thank you, Bellezza!

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  3. I've added this to the list of reviews over at the 'January in Japan' blog. Good to hear you enjoyed it - hope you have time for more J-Lit before the end of January ;)

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    1. Tony, thanks for adding this to your list of reviews at January in Japan. I'm sorely disappointed in myself for all that I have not read for either of our January challenges...still longing to read The Devotion of Suspect X, Asleep, The Lake and a few more. At least I'll fit in The Briefcase before we wrap things up.

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  4. I;ve been reading a little more Japanese fiction recently.This would be a good way to discover another new one to me.

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  5. Wow! These stories sound amazing! I'm so glad you posted about this writer, because I know I would never have heard of her if you hadn't. I am most definitely wanting this book, so please enter my name in your giveaway! Thanks so much, Bellezza!! You are my go-to for Japanese Lit ;)

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  6. a new name to me and one I liked to find out more about ,all the best stu

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  7. This book seems lovely! I would love to read it :)

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  8. Seems like a great read & one I'd love to explore in depth.

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  9. This sounds very good. THANKS for sharing.

    Great post.

    Elizabeth
    Silver's Reviews

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  10. Sounds like a great collection.

    On an unrelated note, I have to ask you a question that's been nagging at me. You've got that lovely list of authors reviewed in your sidebar. When you created that list, did you go all the way back to the beginning of your blogging days? I think it is the most wonderful idea *ever* but I can't even begin to imagine going back through nearly 7 years' posts.

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  11. This sounds so interesting, not just the collection, but also the writer. I admit I haven't heard of Mukoda. But your description is dreamlike... "Mukoda wrote radio scripts to support her hobbies of skiing, mountaineering and traveling." What a wonderful life she led. ;)

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  12. I hadn't heard of the book before but am now intrigued. Would love to get a chance to read this :)

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  13. Bloggers are much better-read in books in translation other book reviewers, have you noticed? I've been surfing the web for suggestions for translations to read. I am interested in women's literature, know nothing about Japanese women's literature,and really want to read "The Otter"! Thank you for writing about this book!

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  14. Thanks for this lovely giveaway. Sounds wonderful. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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  15. I enjoyed this post and would appreciate reading these stories. Thanks. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

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