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Dark Pictures and Other Stories
by Noma Hiroshi, translated with an afterword by James Raeside, Keio University

“Hiroshi’s stories of emotionally crippled veterans are as relevant as stories from the Vietnam era.” 
Al Hikida in MultiCultural Review
 

“Noma Hiroshi presents a harrowing picture of economic hardship and psychological trauma. These are important tales of personal perseverance.”
Publishers Weekly

The 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 Japanese people.

In 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.

The 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.

Influenced 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
Michigan Monographs in Japanese Studies No. 30
Published 2000, 184 pp.
ISBN 0 939512 02 5, hardback, £24.00
ISBN 0 939512 03 3, paperback, £13.99