Japan Society of Fairfield County
Culture Watch, Society Watch (6)
It was about seven or eight years ago when I
heard the author's name, Kyoko Mori, for the first time. The New York Times Review critiqued
her book, Shizuko's Daughter,
favorably enough to stimulate book readers' appetites. So, I bought the
book. Shizuko's Daughter
might be categorized into what Truman Capote once classified In Cold Blood a "non-fiction
novel." It is biographical and yet fictional. Mori came to the United
States right after her graduation from a junior college in Japan,
running away from her trauma, her mother's suicide. She was twenty
years old. When she was in her thirties, she started teaching a
creative writing course at a small liberal college somewhere in or
around Ohio. Several years after the novel was acclaimed, she
transferred to Harvard University for a new teaching position.
What makes it possible? When you read her acclaimed novel, you
feel that she willingly deserted everything Japanese. She has no
desire to go back to Japan; she has no impetus to meet her father and
stepmother; and she has no reason to maintain her own language and
culture. This psychological detachment from Japan, especially
from her own language and culture itself presumably became a powerful
source of her acquiring English, particularly in her writings.
by Dr. Ikuko Anjo Jassey
Four years ago, I had an opportunity to scan
her book, a collection of her essays, in Japanese translation.
Her way of writing essays is no more Japanese at all. Too
straightforward in expression and too strong in tones for Japanese
readers. I do not know if its English version was published in
this country. However, as far as I read it in Japanese
translation--I know that it is not an issue of translation, but of the
way of her expressing her thoughts, this book did not impress me.
Perhaps, if she were not an established author, the collection of her
essays would not be published.
This reminds me of an anecdote recalled by Iris
Murdoch. She sent her manuscript to publishing companies under a
different name unknown to anyone. As a result, no companies
showed interest in her manuscript. When she disclosed her
identity, however, all the publishing companies made a complete change
in their attitude and were eager to publish it. Murdock is candid
and courageous. This incident of rejection, thus, might happen to
any author, regardless of how renowned he or she is.
Contrary to Mori's case whose writing is
deeply affected by American culture and values, whatever I write, my
first language and culture does take control of how I think and how I
organize it. Included are my morphological, syntactical, and
semantic hurdles in English. Consequently, my writing tends to
render a foreign tone or an exotic flavor. Unlike Mori, I who
immersed myself for 44 years in Japanese society and whose linguistic
ability is no more than ordinary, I am fully aware that it is
impossible for me to write like a native.
Thus, without feeling apprehensive of a touch
of foreignness in my writing, or perhaps rather considering it a charm,
I write for my personal enjoyment.
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