Before the Dawn Paper (Miscellany; 135)
University of Hawaii Press, 9780824809140, 828pp.
Publication Date: October 1, 1987
Although Before the Dawn is the story of the author's family and of the Meiji restoration, it is much more than that; the aftermath of the events that form its context have fundamentally altered the nature of the world we live in. Its author was a man of sophistication and erudition even though he was not given to virtuoso displays of either quality. He created this novel out of his personal and artistic needs, and out of his sense of the need of Japan and the world community to know the story he tells in it. Japan has been richly served by the original. But Toson had a worldwide as well as a Japanese audience in mind when he wrote Before the Dawn. This translation has been done in the hope of contributing to that undertaking.
Before the Dawn looks back on the adventure, turmoil, and tragedy of the mid-nineteenth century with a clear and unsentimental vision, but it speaks of those times in tones of tact, humility, and deference. It is a celebration of the humanity of its characters and the richness, complexity, and diversity of the lives they lived during the final years of the Tokugawa shogunate and the first two decades of the Meiji era. For all the weight of its historical concerns, it maintains its lyrical tone even when the subject is external threat, internal political turmoil, the grinding hardship of maintaining the old post system, or the bitter disappointments that the new age brought so many of those who had worked hardest and sacrificed most to bring it into being. It has been followed not only by scholarly studies but also by an immense outpouring of historical fiction, family and local histories, and other publications drawing on the rich store of old diaries and official records preserved throughout the country. These later works often illuminate the period from points of view that were not accessible to any of Toson's characters, but Before the Dawn remains the standard against which all others are measured. --from the Introduction