stories of emotionally crippled veterans are as relevant as stories from
the Vietnam era.”
Hiroshi presents a harrowing picture of economic hardship and
psychological trauma. These are important tales of personal
short stories that Noma Hiroshi produced in the years of confusion and
self-questioning after World War II struck a deep response in his readers.
As a man of the left who had opposed militarism before the war, but who
had nonetheless been obliged to serve in the army, he was in a
particularly advantageous position to survey the recent experiences of the
the three stories contained here—“Dark Pictures,” “A Feeling of
Disintegration,” and “A Red Moon in Her Face”—the main characters
are all young men who have lived through the war but have emerged far from
unscathed. In “Dark Pictures”—probably the most famous of Noma’s
stories—the protagonist thinks back to his last meeting with his
university friends before they were all arrested. The “dark pictures”
of the title refer to paintings and engravings by Brueghel, which the
protagonist and his friends had viewed together. The miseries depicted in
Brueghel’s work seem in retrospect to encapsulate all the miseries the
main character has suffered since seeing his friends: persecution,
self-doubt, sexual anxiety, warfare, imprisonment,
bombardment, and the miseries of life in Japan after the defeat.
other two stories are set in the postwar world of black marketeers and
bombsites, but they too concern young men whose universal anxieties about
sexual desires and their place in the world are overshadowed by memories
of the brutality of war.
by symbolism and the techniques of European modernists, Noma’s writing
will seem both familiar and eerie to Western readers. These translations
offer for the first time the chance for English readers to appreciate the
work of this difficult and haunting writer.
Published by Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan