Fear and Trembling
A NovelBook - 2001
From the critics
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“It is your duty to marry, preferably before your twenty-fifth birthday, which is your date of expiration. Your husband will not love you, unless he’s a half-wit, and there is no joy in being loved by a half-wit. You will never see him anyway. At two in the morning an exhausted—and often drunk—man will collapse in a heap onto the conjugal bed, which he will leave at six o’clock without a word. “It is your duty to bear children, whom you will treat like gods until they turn three, when, ...
Anesan niôbô means “older-sister wife.” The Japanese think the ideal marriage involves a woman with slightly more experience than the man, so that she puts him at ease.
All was explained. At Yumimoto, God was president, and the Devil vice-president.
FUBUKI, ON THE other hand, was neither God nor the Devil; she was Japanese. Not all Japanese women are beautiful. But when one of them sets out to be beautiful, anyone else had better stand back. All forms of beauty are poignant, Japanese beauty particularly so. That lily-white complexion, those mellow eyes, the inimitable shape of the nose, the well-defined contours of the mouth, and the complicated sweetness of the features are enough, by themselves, to eclipse the most perfectly assembled faces. Then there is her comportment, so stylized that it transforms her into a moving work of art.
“And I had been thinking that the Japanese were different from the Chinese.” She looked at me, not understanding. I went on. “Yes. The Chinese didn’t have to wait for Communism to consider denunciation a virtue. To this day the Chinese in Singapore, for example, still encourage their children to tell on their little friends. I thought the Japanese had a stronger sense of honor.”
The first sign was a sort of trembling in the good Mister Unaji’s large shoulders. It meant that he was starting to laugh. The vibrations spread to his chest and then to his throat. Eventually came the laugh. I broke out in goose pimples.
“With your permission, I will spend the night here at my desk.” “Is your brain more efficient in the dark?” Fubuki asked.
I was five years old when we left the Japanese mountains for the Chinese desert. That first exile made such a deep impression on me that I had felt I would do anything to return to the country that for so long I thought of as my native land.
Mister Tenshi and I were subjected to demented screaming. I still wonder which was worse: the content or the delivery. The content was incredibly insulting. My companion in misfortune and I were called traitors, incompetents, snakes, deceitful, and—the height of injury—individualists. The delivery explained much about Japanese history. I would have been capable of anything to stop the hideous screaming—invade Manchuria, persecute millions of Chinese, commit suicide for the Emperor, hurl my airplane into an American battleship, perhaps even work for two Yumimoto Corporations.
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