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Hiji/Han shoyū shaの表紙画像

SPOUSAL LOVE

Hiji/Han shoyū sha

[Secrets/Joint Owners]

By Kōno Taeko

Shinchōsha (Shinchō Bunko), 2003. 375 pp. ¥552. ISBN 978-4-10-116104-4.

Also published in: Russian

“Hiji,” the first tale in this book, is an unconventional love story. It is the reminiscences of an apparently happy middle-aged couple, set against the background of Japan’s 1960s high-growth period. The two come from good Kansai families, marrying for love when they graduate from university. The husband’s job at a top trading company brings them a lengthy period overseas in such cities as Sydney, London, and New York. Despite the trials of this time, the couple remain extremely close to each other. Enduring happiness in itself is a difficult theme for a novel, and it could be said that this is a most unusual story. Kōno Taeko minutely details the accident and scars that will come to form the foundation for the couple’s happiness in the opening, gradually revealing their narcotic and apparently shared predilections. As readers find themselves absorbed in the idiosyncratic love concealed behind the life presented by these apparently upstanding members of society, they will come to savor the true pleasures of this novel.

    While “Hiji” centers on a couple named Mimura, the husband and wife in the second short story, “Han shoyū sha,” are called Kubo. But the reader may derive a greater interest by imagining them as the same couple. “Han shoyū sha” depicts the ultimate act of love by a husband on the night when his dead wife’s body is returned home, completing the couple’s love. The author, who is drawn irresistibly to the masochism of Tanizaki Jun’ichirō, scrupulously delineates minor events and details as the story approaches its climax. I do not know of another author who can craft such a delicate story as Kōno Taeko. (OM)
Hiji/Han shoyū shaの表紙画像

By Kōno Taeko

Kōno Taeko

Born in Osaka Prefecture in 1926. Has won various literary awards including the Akutagawa Prize for the story “Kani” [Crabs] in 1963, the Yomiuri Prize for Literature for Fui no koe [A Sudden Voice] in 1969 and Tanizaki bungaku to kōtei no yokubō [Tanizaki’s Literature and Affirmative Desire] in 1977, the Tanizaki Jun’ichirō Prize for Ichinen no bokka [A Year of Pastoral Poetry] in 1980, and the Kawabata Yasunari Prize for Literature for Han shoyū sha in 2002. She was the first female member of the Akutagawa Prize selection committee. In 2014, she received the Order of Culture. Passed away in 2015.

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