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School of Freedom
by Shishi Bunroku, translated & with an afterword by Lynne E. Riggs

The victors of World War II had one idea about what freedom should be for Japan, the leftists had their notions, national patriots had theirs, and so did men and women. Yet for everyone, “freedom” had some lessons to teach of its own. In 1950s Tokyo, the outlines of freedom were being tested at every level of society: by the long-suppressed socialists and communists through the labor movement, by brokers and black marketeers in the economy, by drug dealers and strip shows on the seamy side of city life, in literature by the translation of D.H. Lawrence’s controversial novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover, in language by young people reveling in the influx of English brought by the Occupation personnel and American culture, and by retiree fanciers of festival music as an escape from the disappointments of progress.

Unfolding in this “school of freedom,” the stories of Iosuke and Komako bring intimately to life the experience of Japanese rising out of defeat in war and exploring their manhood and womanhood in these new surroundings. Serious as its themes and landscapes are, School of Freedom is a comedy catalyzed by familiar caricatures and juxtaposed perspectives—of men and women, of the elderly and the young, of old and new. With true-to-life characters, situations that vividly evoke their times, and even a happy ending, Shishi Bunroku brings a new dimension to Japanese literature in English.

Shishi Bunroku, pen name of Iwata Toyoo (1893–1969), was the author of numerous works of best-selling humorous and biographical fiction as well as fictionalized autobiography and documentary first published in newspapers and magazines between the late 1930s and the 1960s. Several of his works were adapted for film and television. Recipient of the Order of Culture (1969), he is also known for his contributions to the introduction of modern, Western-style realistic theater to Japan. His lifelong effort to carry forward the tradition of the comic, in the true sense of the term, assures him a place in Japanese literature that cannot be ignored.

Lynne E. Riggs is a professional translator based in Tokyo. With Takechi Manabu, she translates mainly nonfiction works through the Center for Intercultural Communication. She is also managing editor at Monumenta Nipponica (Sophia University) and an active member of the Society of Writers, Editors, and Translators. She teaches Japanese-to-English translation at International Christian University.

Published by Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan
Michigan Monographs in Japanese Studies No. 58
Published 2006, 261 pp.
ISBN 978 1 929280 40 7, hardback, £25.00