Beautiful Town

Beautiful Town: Stories and Essays by Sato Haruo

Stories and Essays by Satō Haruo
Translated by Francis B. Tenny
Copyright Date: 1996
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  • Book Info
    Beautiful Town
    Book Description:

    Sato Haruo has been called one of the most representative writers of the Taisho era (1912-1926), a transitional period following Japan's monumental push toward modernization. Although he never identified himself as a modernist, Sato exhibited what some writers have identified as a characteristic of modernism: a complex net of contradictory impulses that embrace both the revolutionary and the conservative, revealing both an optimistic looking to the future and a pessimistic nostalgia for the past. Six stories of amazing diversity and two critical essays revealing the understated Japanese ideals of beauty make up this volume, all translated into English for the first time. Forming a sequel to the three stories published in Sato's The Sick Rose, these stories exhibit an extraordinary variety of themes and styles, ranging from poetic fairy tales to psychological portraits to who-done-it crime stories. The title story is a utopian dream of a better city, populated by ideal people, that vanishes in a mirage. Another tale portrays the loneliness of a man unsuccessful with women. A third embellishes a bare Basho haiku about the man next door. Here too are the dream ballad of a Chinese prince, the imaginary world of a mad Japanese artist in Paris, and the probing search for an opium-drugged murderer. Sato's critical essays that conclude this volume have their themes in an exploration of the sad beauty of impermanence, the nature of enlightenment, the awareness of self, the merging of the instant and the eternal, and the "self-indulgent, unrestrained beauty" of the Japanese language. This collection not only affords insights into the complexity of the work of a gifted writer, but also significantly broadens the perspective of the literary world of the Taisho period.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6158-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Translator’s Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)
    Elaine Gerbert

    Satō Haruo has been called one of the two most representative writers of the Taishō period (1912–1926)¹—for some a painful and for others an exhilarating transition between the age of Meiji (1868–1912), when Japan began the project of modernizing itself after the model of Western nation states, and the uncertainties of Shōwa (1926–1989), when it was called upon to define its place in a world that had grown ever more complex.

    Although he never identified himself as a “modernist,” Satō exhibited what some writers on the subject have identified as characteristics of modernism: a complex net...

    • Beautiful Town
      (pp. 31-63)

      My close friend O spoke to me one day about the painter E. . . . Mr. O had recently had an opportunity to meet this good friend, and E had inquired about me. (I wonder if O hadn’t been speaking about me with too much interest.) E had borrowed from O’s bookshelves a book of mine that I had given to O. On reading and returning the book he was reported to have said to O, “I’ve got a story that I’d really like the author ofThe Fingerprintto hear. . . .”

      Speaking frankly, I have seldom...

    • The Fingerprint
      (pp. 64-105)

      N¹ was my only close friend from childhood. At twenty he went abroad to observe more widely the arts that he loved. I well remember his interesting letters sent to me now and then over several years from Paris, Florence, and London. (They are among the most masterly writings I have seen in the Japanese language.) The last to come was a postcard dated August 11, l907, two years after he went to London and six years after he left Japan. His letters gradually became shorter; then suddenly they stopped. I kept on writing in the hope of not losing...

    • F * O * U Alternate Title: I Think So Too, 1926
      (pp. 106-133)

      He stood up, glanced again at the beautiful play of sun and shadow on the row of great round columns and the broad steps of La Madeleine and the flower market next to it, then stepped out of the Restaurant LaRue. There in front he saw it, the splendid all-chrome automobile parked next to his pitiful little Citroen.

      The car had not been there earlier.

      It was a Rolls Royce to knock your eyes out.

      He had never seen a shape like it.

      It sparkled and glittered all over.

      He thought he’d like to get in. He got in. Taking...

    • The Star
      (pp. 134-165)

      The wealthy Chen family of Yingnei town near Chuanchou city had three sons.¹ For generations the Chens had been a family of wealth and honor. The oldest brother succeeded early, recently having become a circuit commissioner for the Kwangtung-Kwangsi provinces. The second and third brothers, still young, studied diligently at home. Because the youngest was the third son of the Chen family, he was named Chensan, or Chen the Third.

      Where he got it from no one knew, but Chen the Third learned to observe and know the stars. One clear, starlit autumn night he picked out from the countless...

    • Unbearably Forlorn
      (pp. 166-201)

      This woman, earlier a geisha in the same district, had overreached herself to become Seikichi’s brother’s wife. True, she was hardly eighteen at the time. Now, five years later, Seikichi’s brother had abandoned her—you’d have to put it that way.

      Although they separated by mutual consent, the brother does not seem to have confided fully about his intentions. Immediately on leaving his wife, he left for Korea with another woman. He spoke of his notion of taking an unsuitable job, but his real reason for going to Korea may have been the woman. . . . Kuniko seems to...

    • A Window Opens
      (pp. 202-210)

      On an alley some twenty-five or thirty feet back in from the streetcar line there is a block of seven or eight houses like a bunch of birdcages. My house is closest to the front of the block. A tiny rented house in the middle of town like that gives no reason to expect a garden. No more than an excuse there in the back, though, is an area about ten feet square. It adjoins the residence of a well-to-do person. There is a high brick wall and, as if that were not enough, extending above it is a galvanized...

    • A Discourse on “Elegance”
      (pp. 213-243)

      It is a difficult subject. Undeniably I am no scholar. To open my mouth rashly like a scholar is most unnatural for me. Well, how should I speak? As who or as what kind of person? I don’t know. But as I was born into this life a talkative thinker, I am most comfortable when I am expressing my thoughts in talk. I love to be comfortable, come what may, even in my writing style.

      Be that as it may, elegance is definitely not something talkative. It’s like the opposite. For the man of elegant taste, it’s a thing that...

    • The Joy of the Artist and Other Critical Selections
      (pp. 244-270)

      What is the joy of the artist?

      To begin with, the joy of the artist is not the making of good art. Nor the glorification of the art he creates. It lies not in being understood by the critic or in being read with pleasure by the reader. All these are less than secondary for the true artist. What, then, is the joy of the true artist?

      It lies just in the true satisfaction of the artist himself. No, it is rather in the joy of creation. In the moment of creation the artist can enjoy the joy of the...

  7. Back Matter
    (pp. 271-271)