A Dark Night’s Passing - Naoya Shiga (Japanese)
This is a novel in which depression plays a major role. We follow Kensaku as he searches for a way of life that will free him from episodes of emotional, physical and spiritual suffering. At the halfway point he marries; this seems to offer the prospect of contentment, but it turns out not to be as simple a solution as he had wished. One of the book’s virtues is its restrained portrayal of the “dark night” of the soul; another is its depiction of pre-war Japanese culture. Kensaku’s marriage to Naoko – both their courtship and their relationship as husband and wife – is especially interesting. For over four hundred pages I was involved in someone’s life, which is a significant achievement. Yet Shiga goes astray in the last section. The first half of this autobiographical work came out in 1921, followed in the next two years by a substantial part of the second half. In the concluding chapters, which weren’t published until 1937, the fifty-four-year-old author has Kensaku go to a temple in the mountains; we last see him in a tranquil state of near-death. Shiga had spent too much time in the actual for this nebulous attempt at closure to be convincing.
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