Ichigensan - The Newcomer
by David Zoppetti
translated by Takuma Sminkey
Ichigensan is a gentle romance where the normal ‘boy meets girl’ scenario is complicated by numerous factors. She’s blind… he’s an outsider… they’re living in Japan… and not just Japan, but Kyoto, one of the most attractive of cities, yet one whose society is perhaps harder to penetrate than any other, with prejudice on all sides.
The novel can be enjoyed on many levels – as a delicate, sensual love story, as a depiction of the refined society in Japan’s cultural capital, and as an exploration of the themes of alienation common to many environments, regardless of the boundaries of time and place.
Unusually, it shows Japan from the eyes of both an outsider and an ‘internal’ outcast, and even more unusually, it originally achieved this through sensuous prose carefully crafted by a non-native speaker of Japanese. The fact that this best-selling novella won the Subaru Prize for Literature in 1996, and was later made into a hit film starring Edward Atterton, is a testament to its unique narrative power.
The story is by no means chained to Japan, however, and this new translation by Takuma Sminkey will allow readers world-wide to enjoy the multitude of sensations engendered by life and love in an alien culture.
“A beautiful love story” (Japan Times)
“Sophisticated... subtle... sensuous... delicate... memorable... vivid depictions” (Asahi Evening News)
“Striking… fascinating…” (Japan PEN Club)
“Refined and sensual” (Kyoto Shimbun)