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Grass For My Pillow [Hardcover]

Saiichi Maruya , Dennis Keene
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Aug. 27 2002 Modern Asian Literature

First published in Japanese in 1966, the debut novel of the critically acclaimed author of Singular Rebellion is an unusual portrait of a deeply taboo subject in twentieth-century Japanese society: resistance to the draft in World War II. In 1940 Shokichi Hamada is a conscientious objector who dodges military service by simply disappearing from society, taking to the country as an itinerant peddler by the name of Sugiura until the end of the war in 1945. In 1965, Hamada works as a clerk at a conservative university, his war resistance a dark secret of the past that present-day events force into the light, confronting him with unexpected consequences of his refusal to conform twenty years earlier.

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Understated yet powerfully effective.... Maryua's restrained prose mirrors the constriction of Hamada's thoughts and experience, while his amazing attention to detail renders an unquestionably real world for the narrative to exist within.

(Christine Thomas San Francisco Chronicle)

Many artists have either idealized pre-surrender Japan as a golden age untainted by Westernization or criticized the blind acceptance of military objectives, but Maruya refuses to gloss over the former or treat the latter as more enlightened.

(Village Voice)

Virtuosic... a cornucopia of delights... Keene's translation dexterously reflects Maruya's linguistic exuberance.

(The New Yorker)

A masterly realistic novel, and one of the best out of the Far East in many years.


This thoughtful book gives a wonderful insight into Japanese life, both the greater cultural beliefs that shape the society as a whole and the minutiae that preoccupy each individual. Entertaining, informative and compassionate, this is a very worthwhile read. A tribute must also be paid to the translator.

(Janet Mary Tomson The Historical Novels Review)

[A] complete artistic success [in] its riddling marrative method... precise, mysterious, and moving.

(Times Literary Supplement)

About the Author

Saiichi Maruya is an award-winning novelist, translator, and critic. His novel Singular Rebellion was published in English to critical acclaim in 1986. He lives in Tokyo. Dennis Keene is one of the most respected translators of Japanese literature today. He has translated several of Maruya's books, including Singular Rebellion and A Mature Woman. He lives in Oxford, UK.

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4.0 out of 5 stars The past is never forgotten Aug. 28 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A quiet, meditative novel about a Japanese man, Hamada, who dodges the draft during the Pacific War (a crime of the worst sort) and travels around the country under an assumed name. Frequent back-and-forth time shifts, from the present (1960s, when the book was written) and back to the war, with wartime chronology all mixed up, but I didn't find it too confusing. Author Saiichi Maruya explores the delayed repercussions that Hamada's youthful act of rebellion has on him twenty years later, when he is a middle-aged office worker at a conservative Japanese university. The past cannot stay hidden, and for Hamada, it doesn't.
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