Book review and Friday Face Off: The Hunting Gun

Friday Face Off

The Friday Face-Off was originally created by Books by Proxy:
each Friday, bloggers showcase book covers on a weekly theme.
Visit Lynn’s Books (@LynnsBooks) for a list of upcoming themes.
Please visit also Tammy at Books, Bones & Buffy (@tammy_sparks)
thanks to whom I discovered this meme.

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This year, there’s no weekly theme, you just choose a book you have recently read.

On Wednesday, I finished reading a Japanese short story (for the Japanese Literature Challenge), that has a nice collection of covers.
Actually a whole bunch of covers were not really relevant, just pasting a Japanese theme picture, like Mount Fuji!

But there are bascially three important themes in the story (a love triangle; snakes inside our heart; a man walking in the mountains with a hunting gun), so I selected covers featuring one of these themes.
And I actually ended up (not intended) with a reverse triangle, which is totally relevant to this very sad love triangle story!
As I had not posted my review yet, you have a bonus with the review here below.


Click on the picture below if you want to identify the various editions
You can also right click and ‘open image in new tab’ to zoom in

The Hunting Gun

All these covers are actually interesteing, but I think the Finnish (that might be the first time I go with a Finnish cover!) edition is really clever, with the triangle image, but also a bleeding heart, or a blood tear.
And now to my review:

The Hunting Gun

The Hunting Gun
by Yasushi Inoue
Translated by Michael Emmerich
was first published in 1949
Published in English by Pushkin Press
in 2014
112 pages
Japanese short-story/Literary fiction

It counts for The Classics Club
and the Japanese Literature Challenge

I had only read one book by Yasushi Inoue, Les Dimanches de Monsieur Ushioda (not available in English transaltion, as far as I’m aware). It didn’t completely awe me, though I know Inoue is considered one of the best Japanese classic authors.
So I decided to give him another chance with this short story: The Hunting Gun.

The beginning is very meta-literature, to the point that I wasn’t actually sure if I was in a preface by the author, or already in the plot!
So we have here a story within a story – and that story is mostly made up of three letters. But don’t worry, it’s really not confusing at all.
I’ll leave you the surprise of how the main story is connected with the beginning of the story, just know it’s neat and quirky.

The three letters are sent to a man called Misugi Josuke. By three women who have a different perspective on a love triangle. These are not happy letters, they all concern the impact of forbidden love.

There’s a great deal of emphasis on “profound loneliness” and death.
Even though this is about passion, a lot of the vocabulary revolves around the coldness of snake-like deception, and not fiery feelings.
It’s an illustration of “the desolate, dried-up riverbed” inside the soul of a man, who feels “utterly alone”. This is even reflected on the “cold and moody landscape”.

And yet, as the following passages show, this is conveyed in beautiful, poignant prose, exquisitely translated into English by Emmerich, a renown translator from the Japanese.

The first letter’s woman is stuck in “an indescribable loneliness” and “overcome by sadness”.
In fact, the words sad or sadness, come up 37 times thorughout the book. It’s a lot in a short story of that size.

It’s the sorrow that pours over me, like the white crests of the waves in Ashiya on a windy day, confusing me.

 I just feel sad. So sad my tongue goes numb. Not sad about you, or about Mother, or myself. It’s everything, all around me—the blue sky, the October sunlight, the bark of the crape myrtle, bamboo leaves rustling in the wind, and the water and the stones and the earth, all of nature, all I see, takes on this sad coloring the second I open my mouth to speak.
…everything around me, is suddenly awash with a sad color, as if the sun is setting.

I knew love was like a clear stream that sparkled beautifully in the sun, and when the wind blew any number of soft ripples skittered across its surface, and its banks were gently held by the plants and trees and flowers, and it kept singing its pure music, always, as it grew wider and wider—that’s what love was to me. How could I have imagined a love that stretched out secretly, like an underground channel deep under the earth, flowing from who knew where to who knew where without ever feeling the sun’s rays?

I cried then because the whole world seemed so lonesome and sad and scary.

The second woman also mentions sadness, “the sadness of living”, “sad and cold”:
“there was a strangely sad gleam in your eyes”.
Also in connection with landscape and art: “suffusing into paintings of utterly hopeless buildings such a thoroughly modern aura of melancholy”.

Thus the fortress’s calm was preserved, nothing changing but the air, which grew progressively drier and colder and more unpleasant, like a desert wind.

Why… did I tumble into that helpless solitude?

I loved the tension of the story, though I was expecting more as for the resolution of the plot. But I guess that when the abyss is so deep, there’s nothing left but to look at it, pondering.
As all the above shows, this is a rather depressing text illustrating, as the author of the third letter says, “the fleeting, this-worldly writhing that is a woman’s life”.
After going through the three letters, the narrator highlights he found in them “a darkness that was almost unendurable”.

However, the style is so powerful, that I understand why this is considered as a masterpiece of Japanese literature. If you don’t know this author, this short text could be a good introduction to you.

VERDICT: Not a happy piece, but nonetheless a Japanese masterpiece on a very sad love triangle. Exquisitely described, and translated.

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Have you read this book?
Not sure about my next participation,
all depends on how my next reads will qualify


6 thoughts on “Book review and Friday Face Off: The Hunting Gun

  1. I love your idea of combining a review and a Friday Face Off. First, my favorite cover is #7, with the snake front and center. The story itself sounds very sad, but I love all the symbolism. 😁


  2. Pingback: Japanese Literature Challenge 16 | Words And Peace

  3. Pingback: 2023: February wrap-up | Words And Peace

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