The Hunting Gun won the Akutagawa Prize, the most famous literary award in Japan, in 1950. Literary is the operative word here, for Yasushi Inoue's novella is almost stripped bare of novelistic convention to deliver a very literary experience of existential loneliness and bittersweet sadness.
I won't say anything about what happens since the storyline is so simple and you'll want to encounter it fresh. In any case, this is not storytelling in the Western sense. The aesthetic sensibility of The Hunting Gun is purely Japanese, so much so that I suspect I'm missing some of the many layers of significance.
Inoue takes an approach that feels quite different from character development. We don't know what made this character fall in love with that character. Rather, we witness events and emotions through poetic imagery. A white riverbed. A pattern of bright thistles on a silk coat. Petals frozen in a glass globe. These images are drenched in anguish for the characters and propel the narrative.
The introduction was extremely helpful to me in understanding (somewhat) Inoue's style in The Hunting Gun - and seeing his work in the context of the Japanese literary scene.
I ordered The Hunting Gun after reading Tun-Huang, a wonderful historical novel by Inoue. Tun-Huang's heady mix of adventure, romance, mysticism and exotic characters was more to my taste than the extreme refinement of The Hunting Gun. But whether Inoue's subject is an ancient Chinese mystery or the loneliness of lovers, he's a writer of rare imagination.