Les Dimanches de Monsieur Ushioda
by Yasushi Inoue
First published as 欅の木 in 1970
Translated from the Japanese
by Jean-François Laffont and Tadahiro Oku
Literary fiction / Japanese literature
Les Dimanches de Monsieur Ushioda doesn’t seem to have been translated into English, so I read it in French.
It’s more light weight and humoristic than the Japanese books I usually read, so I found it just ok in its style, though the content is good and quite modern.
Ushioda, the CEO of a large company, is close to retirement. He intends to enjoy peaceful Sundays, when he could finally slow down. But on a particular Sunday, his wife, friends, and others all descend on him with various requirements that will prevent him from relaxing. In fact, one thing leading to another, his life is getting more and more busy.
At a deeper level, the author deals with social problems, but in a humorous way. The telephone for instance, seems to harass him, constantly asking for Ushioda’s attention.
An interesting element is how Ushioda talks to his dog, or to himself (in his thoughts), inventing dialogs with people he remembers in his life from a long time ago.
He is also stuck into many social obligations.
But the turning point in his life is the essays he writes for a newspaper, and mostly the one he publishes one day for the defense of the keyaki tree. At the end of the book, we see Ushioda’s life is going to be even more busy, but more meaningful as well.
This was written in 1970, but it shows a lot of environment awareness, and how the heavy industrialization and modernization of Japan was a threat for nature.
“Vendez les fruits à la saison où ils mûrissent naturellement” sounded so 21st century message!
There are also lots of passages on the uselessness of war and its effects.
The book is full of Confucius wisdom, such as
Le bonheur, c’est connaitre l’exacte mesure de ses besoins
and of wisdom that trees can teach us:
C’est parce qu’il ne parle pas que le keyaki vit aussi longtemps. S’il était doué de parole, il serait constamment irrité et n’aurait aucune chance de devenir si vieux.
Plutôt que d’écrire des fadaises, écoute plutôt le chuchotement de la pluie. As-tu seulement une fois écouté la pluie ? Il faut le faire d’une oreille pure, en ne se laissant distraite par rien d’autre.
This was a message from his dog!
So I enjoyed the content, but not really the writing style.
There are references to some authors I now want to check out: L’oiseau bleu, a play by Maeterlinck; the poet Shimagi Akahiko; Itō Sachio and Takashi Nagatsuka, both poets and novelists.
VERDICT: Humoristic take on Japanese modern life. With warnings related to the environment.
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What’s your favorite book by Yasushi Inoue?
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