A True Novel
Publication Date: November 12, 2013
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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A remaking of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights set in postwar Japan
A True Novel begins in New York in the 1960s, where we meet Taro, a relentlessly ambitious Japanese immigrant trying to make his fortune. Flashbacks and multilayered stories reveal his life: an impoverished upbringing as an orphan, his eventual rise to wealth and success—despite racial and class prejudice—and an obsession with a girl from an affluent family that has haunted him all his life. A True Novel then widens into an examination of Japan’s westernization and the emergence of a middle class.
The winner of Japan’s prestigious Yomiuri Literature Prize, Mizumura has written a beautiful novel, with love at its core, that reveals, above all, the power of storytelling.
Minae Mizumura is one of the most important novelists writing in Japan today. Born in Tokyo, she moved with her family to Long Island, New York, when she was twelve. She studied French literature at Yale College and Yale Graduate School. Her other novels to date are Zoku meian (Light and Darkness Continued), a sequel to the unfinished classic Light and Darkness by Natsume Soseki, and the autobiographical Shishosetsu (An “I” Novel from Left to Right). She lives in Tokyo.
Juliet Carpenter studied Japanese literature at the University of Michigan and the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies in Tokyo. Carpenter’s translation of Kobo Abe’s novel Secret Rendezvous won the 1980 Japan–United States Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature.
"A riveting tale of doomed lovers set against the backdrop of postwar Japan…Mizumura's ambitious literary and cultural preoccupations do not overwhelm the sheer force of her narrative or the beauty of her writing (in an evocative translation by Juliet Winters Carpenter)…A True Novel makes tangible the pain and the legacy of loss…[Its] psychological acuteness, fully realized characters and historical sweep push it out of the realm of pastiche and into something far more alluring and memorable." —New York Times Book Review
"Concentric narratives connect and transform into a critical appraisal of commercial expansion and cultural decline...notable are Minae’s edgy insights into class distinctions, trans-Pacific cultures, and modernization’s spiritual void. A transparent translation and the author’s stylistic clarity smooth navigation between storylines. Photographs create the sense of browsing through an album—a nearly 900-page album encompassing two continents and several decades." —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"A smart, literate reimagining of Wuthering Heights...Mizumura’s book is an elegant construction, fully creating and inhabiting its fictional—its truly fictional—world." —Kirkus
"[A] fascinating example of a cross-cultural adaptation...A True Novel suggests that it isn't only writers who are influenced by timeless novels but also the forces of history itself." —Wall Street Journal
"Ambitious...[A True Novel raises] questions about where the line between fiction and remembrance lies." —Los Angeles Times
“The pleasures of A True Novel exceed those of the conventional storytelling kind. Mizamura is an author profoundly concerned with literary tradition and she pulls off several feats here, merging a shishosetsu work (first-person Japanese autobiographical narrative) into a honkaku shosetsu (panoramic Western novel), while successfully recasting Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights in a postwar Japanese setting. Its effect recalls the greatest of Yasujiro Ozu’s films or Chekhov’s shorter fiction: a deep humanism is palpable beneath the dispassionate narrative.” —Three Percent
“Stories within stories, Minae Mizumura’s A True Novel is like a set of matryoshka dolls, with the gem-like truth at its interior. Reading it, we find great moments of history intertwined with the elegance and vulnerability of the heart’s simplest and most urgent desires.” —Lucy Ferriss, author of The Lost
“With A True Novel, Mizumura delivers a haunting, poetic novel of a young Japanese girl who dances on the precipice between becoming American and remaining Japanese as she also narrates the mysterious tale of an angry Japanese man who conquers and is conquered by the America they both come to know.” —Antoinette van Heugten, best-selling author of Saving Max
“This is a book for readers who yearn for the juice and substance of nineteenth-century novels, for the drugged wonder of immersion in another world, in other souls. A True Novel not only satisfies that yearning but is a commentary on the phenomenon—and, further, a cool accounting of a traditional society’s material gains and cultural losses in the transformations of the last century. Of contemporary writers, only the likes of Ian McEwan or Jane Smiley have achieved this combination of scope and emotional power.” —Anna Shapiro, author of Living on Air
"Mizumura meets her literary challenge with impressive sophistication and irresistible emotional power..." —Booklist (Starred Review)
"Through the night, as wind and rain pummel the house, Minae enters a different reality. This is the enchantment of narrative: the exchange of one world for another, light bulbs for ghost fires. This is the promise of every novel, and Mizumura's keeps it." —Music & Literature
"Imaginatively sets Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights in postwar Japan... the narrative is colloquial, loose-limbed, and finely detailed; it’s anything but a slavish imitation of the original." —Library Journal
"A mind-bending saga...[A True Novel] encompasses generations and continents, and Mizumura’s unfussy prose draws clear pictures of various shifting cultural patterns and behaviors." —Bookpage
"A True Novel is a simultaneously expansive and private insight into the struggle between traditional Japanese values and incoming Western conventions, monetary wealth and spiritual value, and status and love—a work of literature not to be missed." —Three Percent
"[D]eftly translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter...[A True Novel] is also an
ambitious social critique. —Times Literary Supplement
“An all-encompassing tale of circumstances at the macro level affecting individuals at the micro level. Mizumura weaves the story of postwar Japan and its rise and subsequent demise of the middle class through the lenses of her characters.” —Vox Magazine
"Readers happy to lose themselves in a narrative but who prefer to lose themselves in a maze that is cunningly wrought, that is artful enough to stand with a book rightly called a classic, will relish “A True Novel.” —The Japan Times
"A True Novel is one of the finest novels to come out of Japan in recent years." –The Modern Novel Blog
“A True Novel is a masterpiece that breaks down all kinds of barriers, one that deserves to transcend the borders between languages and nations as well.” –The Rumpus
"[T]here is no doubt that the story each narrator tells could be a stunning piece of craftsmanship on its own...Juliet Winters’s skilled translation enables the language to flow naturally, presenting no barriers to this exciting journey into the heart of the Japanese culture, which is important because the novel is not only a devastating love story, but also a reflection of history and society through the lives of each narrator." —Verse
“Minae Mizumura's exemplary epic A True Novel is a rapturous homage to this innocent era of literature's birth. All the tropes of a nineteenth-century British novel are at work here and sing in harmony with a different kind of story, one of mid-twentieth century Japan. A True Novel is equal parts contemporary Japanese family drama and a Victorian English Classic, and together they create a deeply rewarding and nuanced reading experience.” —About.com
“A True Novel soars, with unique anxieties about the intersection between Western ideas and Japanese ideals. [Mizumura’s] protagonists…are characters with psychological depth that make the lengthy 850 pages worth the time. Whether you’re interested in a story about young love or a mid-20th century Japan setting, A True Novel delivers.” —Mochi Magazine
“This powerful and lengthy story by the winner of Japan’s prestigious Yomiuri Literature Prize is sure to make a profound impression.” –Sunflower and Moth
“Absolutely fantastic.” –Azure Scratchings
“Written largely as a story-within-a-story-within-a-story, the obvious image at hand for A True Novel’s structure is that of the Russian matryoshka doll. But perhaps a better metaphor would be an origami crane, for reasons as aesthetic as cultural. Beginning with the premise of one mysterious character, Mizumura folds her narrative in intricate and occasionally surprising ways, carefully turning over her material and examining it at all angles, to produce an ornate, singular, and solidly three-dimensional structure. In her prologue (which, by the way, contains what is probably the best piece of writing about writing I’ve ever read), Mizumura outlines her intent in A True Novel to execute a sprawling epic in the tradition of western classics—what in Japanese is called honkaku shosetsu, loosely translated as ‘true novel’. “ –Three Percent
“A True Novel is a story within a story within another story. It revolves around one mysterious man with a tragic history…For the first time in ages I found a book that keeps me awake at night.” –Booklust
“After reading this long book, full of precise tableaux of Japanese people and landscapes, one is struck with a deep sense of grief toward Japan, which has neglected its own history. There is no other way to describe the publication of A True Novel except to say, it marks a decisive moment in the history of Japanese literature.” —Natsuo Sekigawa, Asahi Shinbun
“Portrayed in the novel is romantic love that is painfully passionate and miraculously pure. We regain in reading this novel what we have almost forgotten: the excitement, sorrow, and heartache we once felt reading love stories.” —Saburo Kawamoto, Shukan Asahi
“Minae Mizumura is, to put it simply, what was missing in Japanese literature: A real woman, a real writer who writes real novels.” —Página/12 (Argentina)
“A passionate reimagining of the romantic classic Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë that takes place within the Japanese community in the United States during World War II and the decades immediately following.” —La Nación (Argentina)