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The word new in the title of this anthology refers to 1991, and the seven short stories in it came out in the eighties. I had heard of two of the writers-- YĆ«ko Tsushima, whom I was aware of as the daughter of Osamu Dezai, and Eimi Yamada, whom I've run across anthologized somewhere or other; I had not heard of the other five, Kazuko Saegusa, Minako Ohba, Mizuko Masuda, Hikari Agata and Taeko Tomioka.

Yukiko Tanaka is the translator as well as editor. Possibly because of this, the stories are not similar in content, but they are quite similar in style. I don't think this drastically harms most of them content-wise, but Tanaka acknowledges in her preface that she is not attempting to convey things such as Yamada's habitual usage of non-grammatical English sentences interspersed with Japanese prose. The style of the book is a style I've seen before repeatedly in translated Japanese fiction, most recently with Banana Yoshimoto: short sentences, short paragraphs, smooth flow, and a lot of attempts to get around the fact that the ways Japanese thinks about time and the ways English thinks about time are really very different, leading to a sort of assuredly breathless non-linearity which may or may not be in the original. This is not a book I could forget that I was reading in translation, but I am not sure it should have been.

Tanaka's theme for the book is unmapped territories, and she also talks in the preface about the eighties as a decade of new experiences for women, the opening up of new roles and new desires and new attempts to communicate those. Given that commonality, the stories here are quite different from one another. )


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March 2017

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