A middle-aged businessman reliving a murderous punch-up that happened in his youth; a chatterbox bar girl cheerfully describing her involvement in a customer's fantasy life; a novelist puzzling over an obsession with tree shadows; and a scholar dabbling irresponsibly in the biography of a famous modern poet.
This is the rich and varied world into which you are invited, a world of only half-solved puzzles for its inhabitants: the scholar, for example, discovers a tragedy in his own past in place of the impersonal facts he sought; the novelist, in his search for the origins of his strange preoccupation, encounters a woman who improbably claims to be his mother. It is a world of brilliant surfaces: satirical, at times to the point of parody; incisive, at times to the point of cruelty. A world also of sudden depths, the mind at last confronting truths it prefers not to acknowledge.
These two short stories and two novellas ("Tree Shadows" was awarded the 1988 Kawabata Prize) make up the second volume of Maruya's fiction to appear in English. His novel Singular Rebellion was acclaimed internationally as "a superb piece of urban fiction." This new collection should serve both to confirm his reputation and to give readers a better idea of the scope of his writing.
Here is a writer who not only sees the profoundly comic side of human life, but subtly reveals--without resorting to that aggressive sentimentalism which makes some Japanese literature so hard for Western readers to take--its pathos: the fact that we are all emigrants from a past we remember only too little of. It haunts us, and we try to reconstruct it, but most of what is important in it escapes us.
When Singular Rebellion appeared, Anthony Burgess generously hailed Maruya as a major comic novelist. With this second volume, the limitation of the word "comic" may, we believe, be dispensed with. Maruya's later A Mature Woman has gone one step further to confirm his reputation.