Playing on a classical form of poetry celebrating the labors of the farmer, Nagai (Histories of Bodies) sets these 10 haunting tales within a rural landscape ravaged by war and famine and denuded of bucolic splendor. In "Grafting," a village in the grips of a drought that has already reduced the number of mouths to feed by selling off the village's daughters now turns to dispense with the old people. The narrator knows she must have no mercy as she carries her old mother up the mountain to leave her with the others. In the title story, a village is nearly stripped of men thanks to a war and "a promise of gold." With the land fallen fallow and ravaged by locusts, the protagonist feeds her starving children by prostituting herself to the one man left, the Idiot Son. Other stories directly refer to history, such as the plight of Manchurian women at the end of WWII ("Autobiography"), and a prisoner's chilling account of murdering an American pilot ("Confession"). Starkly recounted with a clear, cold tone, these stories carry the weight of a survivor bearing witness. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/25/2010 Release date: 03/01/2011 Genre: Fiction
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