cover image Life of a Counterfeiter

Life of a Counterfeiter

Yasushi Inoue, trans. from the Japanese by Michael Emmerich. Pushkin Press (, $18 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-78227-002-7

The three powerful stories collected here were written by Inoue in the years following WWII, giving readers a nuanced glimpse of the postwar psyche. The title story is a masterly meditation on fate and obscurity. A journalist who has been comissioned to write the biography of the great artist Keigaku is drawn into the story of Keigaku's most sucessful counterfeiter, Hara Hosen. WWII acts as a framework for the journalist's own life, and readers track the subtle change in his perception of the world and Hosen through the blithe pre-war years, the grim descent to surrender, and the difficult years that followed. In "Reeds," the narrator uses three vivid childhood memories to ponder the intersection of memory and perception. How can a single moment hold so much weight, while the adults involved in the memory have no recollection of the scene? In "Mr. Goodall's Gloves," the same narrator thinks back on his great-grandfather's mistress, Grandma Kano, who raised him. He remembers her kindness fondly, but his reflection is colored by the awareness that her lowly status as a mistress in a morally strict environment must have made for an isolated life. Inoue's prose is simple without being austere, a perfect vehicle for these beautiful stories full of pathos for those lonely souls who live in the shadows. This haunting, elegiac trio makes clear Inoue's position as a Japanese literary master. (Mar.)