The Sound of the Wind: The Life and Works of Uno Chiyo

The Sound of the Wind: The Life and Works of Uno Chiyo

The Sound of the Wind: The Life and Works of Uno Chiyo

The Sound of the Wind: The Life and Works of Uno Chiyo


"Fashion ingenue, magazine editor, kimono designer, femme fatale, prize-winning writer--Uno Chiyo has become one of twentieth-century Japan's most accomplished and celebrated women. In this two-part volume, Rebecca L. Copeland offers Western readers a fascinating portrait of Uno's life along with translations of three of her distinctive works of short fiction. Part One depicts Uno's sometimes turbulent passage from obscurity in a small village to national literary prominence. There are the early years under her father's stern tutelage; the first scandalous, failed romance which cost her her job as a schoolteacher; her apprenticeship at Enrakuken, the coffee shop of the literary elite whose ranks she later joined as a resident of the "Magome Literati Village"; her series of passionate and troubled relationships and marriages. Throughout, Dr. Copeland focuses on the evolution of Uno's art and discusses her major works, paying special attention to the effect being female had on Uno's development as a writer. The three stories in Part Two are examples of Uno's work at its finest. "The Puppet Maker" (1942), a much-admired reflection on art and life, describes an encounter with a venerable carver of puppets. "The Sound of the Wind" (1969) is the tale of a wife at the turn of the century who willingly denies her own needs. "This Powder Box" (1966) shows a progressive career woman coming to terms with an old love affair. At once compelling and lyrical, the stories are a masterful interpretation of tradition, of women, and of self-fulfillment. The Sound of the Wind: The Life and Works of Uno Chiyo will engage both specialists and general readers interested in twentieth-century Japan, literature, and women's issues." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Uno Chiyo has lived the depth and breadth of life—fashion ingénue, magazine editor, kimono designer, celebrated femme fatale. That she is also a significant writer sometimes escapes notice; indeed, my Japanese colleagues are often surprised that I have chosen to study this author. "Why not Natsume Sōseki?" they ask, suggesting one of Japan's literary heavyweights. Even the grand lady herself has been somewhat perplexed by the flurry of attention her works have received recently. She is no stranger to the limelight, but usually the focus was on her life, her loves, her scandals—not her writing.

Initially I was distressed by the lack of appreciation for Uno Chiyo's literary accomplishments. After all, her works have been accorded several of Japan's highest accolades—the Noma Prize among them. But later I came to understand that this skewed perception of Uno was not so much a result of the quality of her works, which few would dispute, but of the content of her life.

Uno never lived the life of a dedicated writer; she was always busy with other projects and enterprises. Serious writers are meant to suffer; they struggle courageously with poverty, with periods of emotional trauma, with self‐ doubt. True, Uno's masterpiece Ohan, barely one hundred pages, did take over ten years to complete, so careful had she become with her craft. Yet her stories read as though she spun them effortlessly from the threads of her own life. Uno would have it appear that she never suffered. She has said that she never cried, never knew a day of pain, never even had a headache! There are those who would believe such exaggeration, so full of vitality and joy is the life she has described.

"I have always done whatever I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it. I never looked back. I only looked ahead." This seems to be Uno's motto; and true to form she raced through pre-World War II Japan at a pace, dizzying even by today's standards. "Married" for the first time at fourteen, she went on to have three other husbands and several celebrated lovers. "It got to the point where I was adept at breaking up," she has said. "I'd cry quietly for a bit, then put on my best kimono and head out the door for another . . .

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