cover image The Hunting Gun

The Hunting Gun

Yasushi Inoue, trans. from the Japanese by Michael Emmerich. Pushkin Press (, $16 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-78227-001-0

"To love, to be loved%E2%80%94how sad such human doings are." Such is the sentiment which lays at the heart of Inoue's (Bullfight) moving and melancholic novella. First published in Japanese in 1949, it is one of the earliest works of the celebrated writer. Inoue frames the story as epistolary: two months after publishing a small poem about a hunter in a niche publication, the writer receives a letter from Misugi Joske, a man with whom a chance enounter%E2%80%94while walking the path at the base of Mount Amagi five months earlier%E2%80%94inspired the poem. Yet Joske's story is far bigger than the writer could have imagined. What follows is three letters from three women, the three parties to the pain of his passion; his niece, Shoko, who discovers her mother's "love that must not be blessed"; Midori (47), the "wife in name only" who makes clear she knows of the affair; and finally Saiko, who suffers tragically under the weight of her sin, "a snake living inside me." Elegant and controlled, the work lays bare the consequences of an affair without melodrama%E2%80%94"the truth, free from deception." Though the novella was written early in Inoue's career, it possesses the poise and control of a mature artist; as Inoue states in his afterword, written decades later, the work contains "something fundamental from which I have never been able to break free." (Sept.)