Sweet sometimes rather sad short stories, mainly about the author s childhood or teenage years as student , about his fears, sorrowas, joys, loves, relationships with mother and father, friends and girls which he loved before, during and short after war Clear, soft and beautiful stories I love the author s style of writing Yasuoka Shotaro 1920 2013 was born in Kochi Prefecture as the son of an army veterinary surgeon He experienced an early life of frequent moves from one military post to the next, and developed a dislike for schooling Still, he did manage to get accepted into Keio University s preliminary course, but was immediately drafted and sent to Manchuria He was discharged when he fell ill with what appeared to be Pott disease, an illness which would haunt him for ten years As his father had lost his livelihood, Yasuoka was obliged to do odd jobs to earn money for his own treatment one of those jobs is described in The House Guard It was while he was bedridden with this disease that he began his writing career Besides for humorous stories and essays, Yasuoka is also known for the novella Umibe no kokei A View by the Sea, 1959 about his mother s death in an insane asylum Yasuoka s characters are all clumsy persons who masochistically persist in challenging themselves even when realizing there is not the slightest chance of success Failure has been called a constant trademark for Yasuoka, whose work with its self depreciating tone has also been seen as a cross between Dazai Osamu and Shiga Naoya Two characteristic stories are Garasu no kutsu The Glass Slipper, 1951 The narrator, a clerk at a shop selling hunting rifles, is sent to the home of a U.S military doctor to deliver a purchase The doctor and his wife are out, and in their place a teenage maid, Etsuko, answers the door and welcomes the narrator in with great warmth The narrator develops fervent feelings for the naive Etsuko whose strange, playful ways move him and torment him He visits her every day, but when the doctor and his wife return home, things come to an end Etsuko is like Cinderella s glass slipper that disappears at the stroke of midnight A story which has earned high praise from Murakami Haruki Hausu gado The House Guard, 1953 The narrator has the leisurely job of guarding houses requisitioned by the Occupation He spoils a nascent love affair with the maid from next door through sheer ineffectuality. Yasuoka S Venal, Youthful First Person Narrators Grasp At Beauty And Romance Amid A Changing Japan In These Nine Stories, All Published In Japan In The Early S Tyler S Translation Captures Yasuoka S Effortless Style, Registering Dark But Delightful Impressions Of Youth Publishers Weekly I really like this collection of short stories They are the embodiment of escape that I always long for People in these stories have the most unusual occupations A translator of fashion magazine could you really translate the trend of fur and suede , a nightwatchman of a jewellery store which don t really know how to fight bad guys or fire, a houseguard of a half burned house, a student that don t know what in the world is homework and prefer being in the cemetery than in class, a liberal artist whatever that is , a sweeper in an army barrack acquired by the allied force just because he needs a quick fix of cigarette stubs he himself is not sure why, so how should I know , and my favorite of all a student trying to live as an artist then turned to be a would be gangster that was too poetic.Aaaaah, they need their escape, and most certainly, so do I That last story was so entertaining and hillarious, especially about that kid that was into onomatopeic poem Aiba chan, there is definitely a good future for you in poetry . Pocas cosas hay tan lamentables para una joya como la presente obra que padecer de una traducci n deficiente, peor aun si se nota, incluso para quien no es el m s atento de los lectores, que esta es la traducci n de otra traducci n Que este libro de relatos de Shotaro Yasuoka nos venga filtrado por dos traducciones no solo es lamentable, resulta criminal, porque a pesar de sus virtudes, rayanas en la genialidad, es inevitable que la torpeza del mercachifle que pas este libro del ingl s a un espa ol ib rico empa e la lectura de la obra tan pobre que, joder, parece que en Madrid y en Tokio se comen noodles y no fideos Y es una pena aun m s honda porque en occidente ese genio del humor y del absurdo que es Yasuoka es apenas conocido Es una l stima, en serio, sobre todo cuando no es f cil, incluso cuando se trata de los grandes cuentistas, hallar un libro de narraciones breves en las que ninguna desmerece, en las que todas son buenas y memorables. Recuerda a Dazai Destacar The Glass Slipper o Jingle Bells , los dem s no est n mal. Admittedly, I picked this up because the jacket copy indicated that Haruki Murakami adores Yasuoka This slim volume primarily focuses on young men wandering in Japan following the Second World War The destruction of Tokyo floats in and out of view as Yasuoka follows his characters through the simple struggle of life The prose is spare without being choppy or boring, with a wry sense of humor to most of the ends Well crafted and deeply enjoyable work. I was very excited about this as Shotaro Yasuoka is from Kochi But these stories are all set in Tokyo Shotaro gives us lots of aimless young men scratching a living and generally failing at life Poor old Japan One vague memory of my boyhood has to do with a sword dance, in which a man with a cushion strapped to his back, representing a baby, fights an enemy while at the same time wiping away his tears The baby on his back probably keeps the man from wielding his sword freely against his powerful foe, although he wouldn t dream of abandoning it, either I suppose that s why he s crying The dance was as boring as it could possibly be, as far as I was concerned, so why in the world did it linger on that way in a corner of my mind For one reason it sometimes comes back to me and plunges me into gloom Ah, the old Edo days I said to myself, then stopped, feeling utterly foolish Still, that firefly roaming the air, blinking its little light next to a broken down wall hundreds of years old, was amazingly cute. The Wandering Minstrel is the opening story to a collection of nine, featuring a young man who, after graduation, is lucky enough to land himself a job by making up a song for the company s owner He talks about his own lack of abilities in a deprecating fashion, and it is obvious that his colleagues despise him, but still he decides to stay on Just when he fears he will be sacked, his boss asks him whether he is interested in marrying his niece After all, the protagonist is young, lacking in wealth, and unmarried, and she comes with a dowry that is not to be sneezed at Because of her round face, he starts associating her with cows in a pasture like the ones in his nightmare and he just cannot go through with the engagement But he also can t blow her off, for fear of losing his job That s about the gist of it Isn t it a strange, little tale There is no real storyline to the twelve page spanning monologue and the main character isn t that likable either The opening paragraph also did not help generate enthusiasm This year on New Year s Day I had a dream The morbidly unpleasant impression it left suggests that it may ultimately have set me on the path toward the present impossible situation to which my own foolishness has led me Is the writer not as gifted with words as with imagination Or is the translator, renowned Japanologist Royall Tyler to blame for the awkwardness of this paragraph But wait, let s take a step back and take a closer look at the author, Shotaro Yasuoka What do we really know about him He was born in 1920, conscripted to join the turmoil of the war in 1944, but returned home quickly after he developed tuberculosis After the war, when he was disabled from his illness, he took up writing The Glass Slipper and Other Stories was published in 1951, when the author was 31, and it was acknowledged as an impressive debut While writing his stories, he drew heavily on his own experiences, putting a lot of himself into his first person narrators This quality, along with simpleness bordering on the monotonous, amorality and closeness to everyday life among others , was attributed to the so called Third Next Generation of Japanese writers This type of writing contrasted strongly and perhaps felt like a breath of fresh air against theabstract writings that preceded this wave Also, bearing in mind that The Glass Slipper was written just after the end of World War II, it gives a disturbing insight into the lives of people trying to get to grips with their post war realities.So, keeping this in mind, we can perhaps now better understand Yasuoka s writing I just wish the translator had included a brief introduction containing the above background information Readers could easily deem this book uninteresting and discard it after the first story.The other stories all had something in common with the first one the protagonist is a young man or child even who can t take responsibility nor willing to improve his own situation They are boys who don t want to grow up, but who don t want to chase any particular dream either They just waste away their days doing nothing You could easily apply the modern term freeter to some of them In The Glass Slipper, the main character works night shifts at a gun store, while sleeping in classrooms during the day but it s not clear whether he actually attends class or just goes to sleep in an abandoned room When he meets Etsuko, a maid, at the house of Colonel Craigow, they wind up spending the entire summer holiday together, playing silly games and cleaning out the Craigow s pantry Homework is one of the longest and probably the most obnoxious story of them all It s about a boy who is sent to a prestigious school, but fails to fit in He neglects his homework, and starts skipping class His favorite place to hang out is the local cemetary The House Guard fared a little better Here, the protagonist is a student who works part time as a house guard, occupying and protecting vacant houses that have been left behind by their owners for one reason or the other He lives a comfortable life, with the neighbor s maid supplying him with abundant food Jingle Bells follows a young man trying to make his way but not in a very urgent manner to his girlfriend across the city He knows beforehand that he will be late, but he decides to finish the journey anyway In The King s Ears a young man loses his way in university and pulls a friend with him on a downwards spiral It s a story of lying and being lied to The protagonist of The Sword Dance is frustrated by his veteran father who, in his eyes, eatsthan his allotted share and does not contribute to the household s income It is a story of poverty, despair and damaged people trying to make a living for themselves one way or another If I had to pick one, I d say this is my favorite story of the bunch The Medal tells the story of a young man who one day decides to go to Tokyo and finds a relatively well paid job as cleaner in an office building full of American military men The connecting thread is tobacco, a increasingly scarce commodity.The book ends with A Room in Tsukiji, a story that features a group of young men who drop out of college to chase their dreams of reliving glorious Edo times.Overall, the book was an interesting read, but there was too much monotony to upgrade it to three stars.