Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, September 21, 2012

"The Hole" by Ikujirou Ran

"The Hole" by Ikujirou Ran (1938, translated by Geoffrey Ivar)

I was so happy recently to find an anthology of older Japanese short stories on sale at a very fair price as an Ebook on Amazon.   A Collection of Japanese Short Stories, Vol I, (2011) edited and translated by Geoffrey Ivar includes ten short stories, all new to me writers.  Ivar's translations read beautifully and his brief author biographies are very well done.  

Ikujirou Ran (1913 to 1944, Tokyo) studied electrical science at the Tokyo Technical College.   His mother loved science fiction and he began to publish in science fiction magazines while still in college.  He died in an airplane crash in 1944.   I could find no other information on Ran online, in English at least, and I would really like to know if he served in WWII and if his death was war related.  If you know or have more information on him please leave a comment.

"The Hole" is told in the first person by a man who works as a guard in a Tokyo train station.  It is hard boring thankless work.    He and his supervisor are in the guardhouse, he is looking at the condensation on the windows, he is so bored.  Then the phone rings and his supervisor says 'Hm?  What?  A junk, eh, where?  Yes we're going"  My first thought is what is a junk?   A junk is the body of a person killed by the train.   Just about the worse part of their is jobs picking up dead bodies, sometimes they have to search a long time to find all the parts.   Every time they see a body, they think about the person.  Some are pretty obviously suicides.   One woman is found with her hands clutching her kimono, keeping it from riding up even as the train approaches.    Whenever someone is killed there is always an investigation.   The story lets us feel what is was like to be a guard and how disturbing it was to clean up after someone is killed by the train.   The story takes an interesting possibility paranormal turn that is perfectly done but I will leave rest of the story untold.

Geoffrey Ivar has done those interested in the Japanese short story who do not read Japanese a great service by providing translations of numerous older stories.  Most of the authors included in this story can be read nowhere else.  It is great to have a way to read so many pre-WWII short stories.  

More about Ivar work can be learned from his very interesting blog.

Mel u

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