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Embracing Family [Paperback]

Nobuo Kojima

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Book Description

Dec 1 2005 Japanese Literature Series

Set during the U.S. Occupation following World War II, Embracing Family is a novel of conflict -- between Western and Eastern traditions, between a husband and wife, between ideals and reality. At the opening of the book, Miwa Shunsuke and his wife are trapped in a strained marriage, subtly attacking one another in a manner similar to that of the characters in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? When his wife has an affair with an American GI, Miwa is forced to come to terms with the disintegration of their relationship and the fact that his attempts to repair it only exacerbate the situation. An award-winning novel, critics have read this book as a metaphor of postwar Japanese society, in which the traditional moral and philosophical basis of Japanese culture is neglected in favor of Western conventions.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 190 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press; Tra edition (Dec 1 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564784053
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564784056
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 17.9 x 1.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 363 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,326,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Set during the post-WWII American occupation of Japan, this sometimes disjointed novel (the first English-language publication of Kojima's 1965 Japanese debut) centers on middle-aged professor Shunsuke Miwa trying—and mostly failing—to understand the family from whom he has always been distant. Although he himself has philandered, Shunsuke, an expert on Western culture, is thrown into a crisis when his wife, Tokiko, asserts her independence by having an affair with an American GI. Shunsuke's attempts to impose authority leave him figuratively and literally impotent, and he overcompensates by building a preposterous Western-style house. When Tokiko develops breast cancer, Shunsuke endeavors to restore domesticity and cluelessly tries to connect with his son and daughter. Although outsiders eventually judge Shunsuke as "overly preoccupied" with his family, he continues to struggle inwardly with the conflicts between Western modernity and traditional Japanese patriarchy, between American action and his own passivity. Shunsuke's efforts to make peace during his wife's illness are somewhat endearing, but his inability to really see her (and other women) as autonomous people may leave American readers with little sympathy for this traditional patriarch. Kojima's controlled prose, as well as Shunsuke's cool response to emotional events, lend the novel a spareness bordering on sterility. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


a brilliant examination of complexity ' -Charlie Dickinson, Hackwriters

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I'm in pain, and you're acting like YOU need help." March 27 2006
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Written in 1965 by Nobuo Kojima, the author of more than thirty books, Embracing Family is the first of Kojima's novels to be translated into English. Set in Japan during the American Occupation after World War II, it is the story of a troubled marriage, the two parties no longer communicating on any level. Shunsuke, a formal man who never says or does anything that pleases his wife, travels a great deal, giving lectures on "the American way of life" to audiences of housewives. His own wife, a vain, self-indulgent woman who is more interested in her appearance, plastic surgery, and an expensive home than in her children or her husband, mocks him in public.

It gives away nothing to reveal that Shunsuke has had numerous relationships while on the road, a common and accepted behavior for businessmen, but when Shunsuke discovers that Tokiko has had an affair with a young American serviceman, he is appalled that she has insulted him by violating traditional values and her role as a woman. Determined to save the marriage to protect his son and daughter, Shunsuke embarks on a clumsy but sincere effort to initiate communication and reclaim his family life. He has little idea of who he really is or how to be a husband, while Tokiko has no idea at all of who she is. When a new crisis forces Shunsuke and Tokiko to depend upon each other for an extended period of time, their behavior and thinking are laid bare for the reader, who must then judge how much, if anything, either learns about each other and their marriage.

Written for a Japanese audience, the novel makes cultural assumptions that may surprise American readers unfamiliar with the Japanese culture of forty years ago, when the novel was published. In addition, American influences, and the emphasis on personal freedom, are seen as detrimental to this marriage and threatening to all aspects of traditional culture. Tokiko, however, is rude and confrontational and, in refusing to take any responsibility at all, fails to be a positive example of traditional roles and culture, at the same time that she has no understanding of American independence. She is simply selfish. Ultimately, the fate of the family depends on the development of the characters' personal values and on their inner growth.

The author exhibits a remarkable frankness about some issues but is restrained, by western standards, in revealing deep feelings, making the novel challenging for western readers. The ending, which feels abrupt, is appropriate thematically though a bit weak dramatically. Symbolism is obvious in context and requires no explanation--a dream that the children are being executed, the contamination of some pickled plums, a ghost. A rare glimpse of Japanese culture at a specific point in history, this novel explores the same subject matter as Junichiro Tanizaki's 1929 novel, Some Prefer Nettles, which, while more subtle and elegant, is less naturalistic. n Mary Whipple

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