The Cake Tree in the Ruins

Akiyuki Nosaka, trans. from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori. Pushkin, $18 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-78227-418-6
This volume is a series of delicate, tragic stories by the late Nosaka (author of the short story “Grave of the Fireflies,” which was adapted into a classic animated film) set during August of 1945, when American B-52 bombers had devastated Japan. Reminiscent of the fairy tales of Oscar Wilde, sketches such as “The Whale That Fell in Love with a Submarine” mix flights of fancy with martial horror. “The Parrot and the Boy” is the story of a boy and his prize pet eking out survival in an air-raid shelter. “The Elephant and Its Keeper” transpires in a forgotten zoo. “The Prisoner of War and the Little Girl” tells the heart-wrenching tale of an unlikely friendship disrupted by wartime. “The Old She-Wolf and the Little Girl” is a fable about a dying wolf who finds a new lease on life by caring for a lost child. The bittersweet title story follows a group of children frolicking in a bomb-blasted ruin. Other works, such as “The Red Dragonfly and the Cockroach,” which follows a doomed pilot, and “A Soldier’s Family,” about an isolated Japanese officer, are brilliant war stories in their own right. This excellent collection proves that Nosaka (1930–2015) was a master of the form. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 01/14/2019
Release date: 11/13/2018
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