During a bombing raid in WWII the house of her and her husband was destroyed along with all their possessions. She was very much into the reading life. The Waiting Years took Enchi nearly eight years to write. It is a wonderful basically flawless work of art. The novel is set in the home of a Samurai family in late 19th century Japan. The husband is a middle level, maybe a higher at times, government official.
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During a bombing raid in WWII the house of her and her husband was destroyed along with all their possessions. She was very much into the reading life. The Waiting Years took Enchi nearly eight years to write. It is a wonderful basically flawless work of art. The novel is set in the home of a Samurai family in late 19th century Japan. The husband is a middle level, maybe a higher at times, government official. The family is quite comfortable and can afford several servants but they are not among the truly rich or elite.
One day the husband comes to her with some instructions for her to carry out. He wants her to find a new maid for the household that will also serve as his concubine. She suppresses her anger and jealousy as he explains to her it is simply that a man of his standing is expected to have at least one concubine and if he does not it casts doubts on the families financial status and looks bad for him to his peers.
She tries to control her emotions as she imagines her husband sleeping with the various girls she interviews. These girls were basically offered for sale by their families.
Once funds were paid for them they were more or less slaves and certainly had no right to leave their masters. It was a bit shocking to learn that the typical age of these girls was 13 to The girls trained in household duties and most also service the sexual needs of the master of the house. We see Tomo and the girl develop a relationship even though they have every reason to dislike and distrust each other.
The novel covers at least 40 years in the life of the family. In each chapter we are given a view of a different aspect of their developing lives. Soon the husband feels a need for a second then a third concubine. All of the women are bought as young girls and live in the household. We see the tensions between the wife and the concubines. Along the way we meet their children and grandchildren. I could not help but laugh when I found out who the real father of the children of one of the concubines really was.
We see the shifting relationships of the women over time. The Waiting Years is a very subtle, cerebral work that takes us deeply into the lives of the women and the husband in a late 19th century Samurai family. I hope to post on another of her novels in July, Masks. She wrote many novels all of which center on female characters trying to find away towards self-actualization in a male dominated society. I recommend this book with the only reservations that if you find Jane Austin, The Brontes, Tanizaki or George Sand boring you may have the same reaction to this book.
The translator, John Bester is one of the foremost translators of the Japanese novel into English-having translated over a dozen works. From now on I will try to post a bit about the translators of the works I read. Mel U.
The Modern Novel
With the many number of great male Japanese writers, one could easily despair with regards to the rarity of female perspectives, but fortunately, Enchi has written a good novel -- good enough to add to the canon of Japanese literature. The story centers on a wife named Tomo, and follows through the aching years of her marriage until her death. Her tale involves the humiliation she must endure upon choosing a mistress for her husband. At first, she chooses the year-old Suga, who is invited into their home under the pretense that she will become their maid. Suga is quiet and introspective, and builds not only a relationship with the husband Yukitomo and Tomo, but also with their young daughter, Etsuko. This is not a tale involving female cattiness, since in fact, the women all seem to get along well together, for the most part.
The woman in her fluttering between agony and envy, empathetic towards the fate of an adolescent girl whereas the wife in her scrupulously astute in the ongoing task, a Not a single strand of hair loosened from the perfect coiffure, a fulsome smile tripping from the corners of her mouth putting a Noh mask to shame, confident in her posture, her heart being swept by violent sea of excruciating conflicts; there she sat gazing into the naivety of a girl-child untouched by the menstrual years. At that very moment, I sensed the societal asphyxiation of Tomo. At that very instance, I had compassion for Suga and consideration for Yumi. I trust you, No more will the husband lovingly savour the naked flesh of his wife.
Change Can't Come Fast Enough Within 'The Waiting Years'
Early life[ edit ] Fumiko Enchi was born in the Asakusa district of downtown Tokyo , as the daughter of distinguished Tokyo Imperial University philologist and linguist Kazutoshi Ueda. Of poor health as a child, she was unable to attend classes in school on a regular basis, so her father decided to keep her at home. She was taught English, French and Chinese literature through private tutors. She was also strongly influenced by her paternal grandmother, who introduced her to the Japanese classics such as The Tale of Genji , as well as to Edo period gesaku novels and to the kabuki and bunraku theater. However, her interest in the theatre was encouraged by her father, and as a young woman, she attended the lectures of Kaoru Osanai , the founder of modern Japanese drama. Her plays took inspiration from Osanai Kaoru, and many of her later plays focused on revolutionary movements and intellectual conflicts.
The Waiting Years
The beautiful, immature girl whom she took home to her husband was a maid only in name. The waiting years. Fumiko Enchi. Kodansha International, - Fiction - pages. The waiting years Fumiko Enchi Snippet view -