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Books: Made in Japan

2 minute read

THE MOUNTAINS REMAIN (408 pp.)—Manama Tasaki — Houghfon M/tW/n ($3.75).

In Japan, 38-year-old Hanama Tasaki runs a ham and bacon business by day, a nightclub after sundown. He also writes novels. Hawaiian-born, U.S.-educated and a veteran of the Japanese army, he made his U.S. fiction debut in 1950 with Long the Imperial Way, a ploddingly serious novel about Japanese infantrymen. To his publishers, at least, the book set Tasaki up as “the principal interpreter of present-day Japan to the United States.”

Last year, “because I wanted to do something more constructive than simply make bacon and hams,” Author Tasaki slipped away from his farm to a beach resort, “wrote like a machine” day & night for three months. What he brought back was The Mountains Remain, a novel that tries to explain the social jitters of postwar Japan.

Tasaki gets the old and new Japans squared off against each other by rigging up two brother & sister teams of near-vaudeville quality. Ko-ume, the gorgeous and traditional geisha, can’t hope to land Minoru, the weakling son of a count. The girl who successfully bucks Ko-ume is rich, intelligent, beautiful, and a nobleman’s daughter besides. Ko-ume naturally does the natural thing: she hops off a cliff. Ko-ume’s brother Takeo is something else, a young peasant back from the infantry whose earthiness envelops the count’s liberal daughter before he’s halfway through repairing her shattered greenhouse. These two are the new Japan, ready to start from scratch on a small farm, cool to both feudalism and Communism.

Businessman Tasaki says little to the point about the new Japan, and he says it in prose so lugubrious that it can be read for laughs. Sample: “. . . For [Ko-ume] thought if she recognized her love for Minoru, she would present her all to him before she knew whether he would be faithful or not, and with the possibility that she would advance to her ultimate destruction at the hands-of some sinister infidelity on his part.” Novelist Tasaki obviously wishes to show that Japan is headed toward a new and more wholesome social point of view. What he has yet to learn is that no amount of earnestness alone can make a novel. His publishers should learn it too.

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