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Chīsai ouchiの表紙画像

LIVES IN TOKYO AND THE REGIONS

Chīsai ouchi

[trans. The Little House]

By Nakajima Kyōko

Bungeishunjū (Bunshun Bunko), 2012. 352 pp. ¥580. ISBN 978-4- 16-784901-6.

Also published in: Chinese (traditional and simplified characters), English, French, and Korean

This novel is the winner of the Naoki Prize for the first half of 2010—Japan’s best-known and most influential literary award for popular fiction. The story is set in the early years of the Shōwa era (1926–89), when Japan’s situation is becoming tenser but the country has not yet fully entered a wartime footing. On the outskirts of Tokyo, near a station on a private train line, stands a modest European- style house with a red, triangular-shaped roof. There a woman named Taki has worked as a maidservant in the house and lived with its owners, the Hirai family. Now, near the end of her life, Taki is writing down in a notebook her nostalgic memories of the time spent living in the house. Her journal captures the refined middle-class life of the time, from her gentle perspective.

    At the end of the novel, however, a startling final chapter is added. The chapter brings to light, after Taki’s death, a fact not described in her notebook. This suddenly transforms the world that had been viewed through the lens of a nostalgic memoir, so that a dramatic, flesh-and-blood story takes shape. The revelation generates surprise and stirs up deep emotions. Upon finishing the novel, the reader cannot help feeling dazed for a few moments, thinking back on the time that has elapsed in the story and the feelings of each of the characters who have appeared. Nakajima manages to combine skillful dialogue with a dazzling ending. The result is a polished, masterful work fully deserving of the Naoki Prize. (MT)
Chīsai ouchiの表紙画像

By Nakajima Kyōko

Nakajima Kyōko

Born in Tokyo in 1964. After working at a publishing firm and as a freelance writer, she made her debut as a novelist in 2003 with Futon. In 2010 her novel Chīsai ouchi won the Naoki Prize. This was followed by the Izumi Kyōka Prize for Literature for Tsuma ga shiitake datta koro [When My Wife Was a Shiitake] in 2014 and the Kawai Hayao Story Prize and Historical Fiction Writers Club Award for Katazuno! [One-Horn!] in 2015. Her other works include Itō no koi [Itō’s Romance] and Chōbō zekka [A Magnificent View].

Translation rights inquiries

Bungeishunjū Ltd.
(attn. Rights Management Dept.)
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