Sunday, 5 December 2010

Children in the Wind

Hiroshi Shimizu is a film director I've regretfully yet to fully explore, I'd very much like to see his 1937 adaption of this novel which originally appeared in Japan a year before in 1936, written by Tsubota Joji (1890-1982), Kaze no naka kodomo was first serialized in the Asahi Shimbun. The edition I read was published by Kegan Paul International Publishers back in 1991, the novella was chosen for the UNESCO Collection of Representative Works, the translation was by Robert Epp, a translator whose translations I'd like to read alot more of, especially his Egg in my Palm - The Poetry of Tsuboi Shigeji, Robert Epp also includes an afterword putting the novella into historical context, reminding us that the year it first appeared the Olympics were being held in Berlin, the two brothers of the novel whilst playing mention the names of Japan's medal winners of those games, (Tetsuo Hamuro, Naoto Tajima and Hideko Machata), also Robert Epp highlights the domestic scene familiar to that of the era. The novella is made of about forty chapters each slowly revealing the boys observations of the activities of the adult world going on around them, whose motives still seem to be just out of reach to the boys. Zenta the elder brother steps in to stop a quarrel his younger brother, Sampei is having with another local boy Kintaro who are arguing about the brothers father, Mr Aoyama. News that the stockholders at the factory where their father works are investigating a suspected fraud involving Mr Aoyama is circulating throughout the neighbour hood, later Zenta climbs the Persimmon tree in their garden, Sampei shouts up to his brother asking what he sees, the ocean?, whales?, Mt Fuji?. A man arrives asking their mother to fetch Mr Aoyama the boys see the man show her his card, she turns pale and their father is taken off to the Police station, the two boys watch as their father walks away from the house with the man.

Later whilst waiting for their mother to return from town the boys have two more men come to visit, a man from the factory where their father worked along with an official from court intending to seize the family's property as collateral, the boys remain silent in the house, after a while thinking that no one is at home the men leave. The following day it's decided that Sampei will have to stay with Uncle Ukai, Zenta will stay at home. Sampei's antics soon prove too stressful for his Uncle and Aunty to bear, after overhearing that his father maybe imprisoned for up to a year or two, Sampei exhibits mischievous behaviour and after disappearing for a while near a pond which reputedly is populated by kappas is duly returned to his mother. The vividness in which the emotional world of the family is put under duress whilst their father is under investigation is displayed in a number of brief moving segments when Sampei has to leave with his Uncle and his mother catches a glimpse of his toes she bursts into tears, and a scene when Zenta is on his own in the house and plays a game of hide and seek with himself, imagining he is playing with Sampei captures a moment of moving innocence. Sampei's defiant stubborn attitude permeates throughout this novella, which also ends the book with a defiant little epithet.

Robert Epp gives a brief biography of Tsubota Joji, born in Okayama Prefecture his family ran a small business making wicks for lamps, Epp mentions that many of Tsubota's other stories centre around factory life. In 1984 Okayama City set up a Literary Prize in his honour.

No comments: