Saturday, 9 January 2010

The Lemon

'The Lemon' is a 1925 short story by Kajii Motojiro, born in Osaka in 1901, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis at an early age, which tragically took his life at the age of 31. A small number of his stories appear in English translation, although there's no collection of his available in one volume, some are available in various anthologies. The Lemon is one of his stories that was very popular in Japan, achieving great notoriety, with many of it's admirers emulating the actions of the protagonist's at the end of the book. It has a modernist feel to it, Kawabata highly praised Kajii's stories,with an ending that I found, whilst reading, impossible to predict. Along with five other classics of Japanese literature, it looks like The Lemon will be adapted into a short film.

The narrator walks the streets of Kyoto, through rundown streets, trying to escape a sense of melancholy weighing him down,feeling at odds with his surroundings. Suffering from tuberculosis,with no money, he finds a certain pleasure in the simple things he sees, the wrappers of fireworks in shop window displays. Walking along Teramachi he comes across a green grocer's store,and discovers what could be an elixir, in the shape of a lemon. Finding that the lemon has instilled in him a temporary reprieve from his sufferings, he walks into a book store. Going to the art section he is suddenly seized with a flash of inspiration.
Cold Green Tea Press, a DIY publisher have recently released an illustrated chapbook edition of the story, translated by Chinatsu Komori and Kenneth Traynor, which is available here.

Cold Green Tea Press

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