The Wild Goose

Mori Ôgai

Translated with an Introduction by Burton Watson


Monograph No. 14, 1995, xiv + 166 pp., ISBN 978-0-939512-71-3. Paper only. $22.00.
 
 
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  • Mori Ôgai (1862-1922), one of the giants of modern Japanese literature, wrote The Wild Goose at the turn of the century. Set in the early 1880s, it was, for contemporary readers, a nostalgic return to a time when the nation was embarking on an era of dramatic change. Ôgai's narrator is a middle-aged man reminiscing about an unconsummated affair, dating to his student days, between his classmate and a young woman kept by a moneylender. At a time when writers tended to depict modern, alienated male intellectuals, the characters of The Wild Goose are diverse, including not only students preparing for a priviledged intellectual life and members of the plebeian classes who provide services to them, but also a pair of highly developed female characters. The author's sympathetic and penetrating portrayal of the dilemmas and frustrations faced by women in this early period of Japan's modernization makes the story of particular interest to readers today.
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  • "A small book that gives immense pleasure. . . . A timeless portrayal of the clash between social caste and romantic love."
    --Gardner McFall in The New York Times Book Review

    "This affecting piece of short fiction [is] a fine keystone for any library's collection of Japanese materials."
    --J. M. Ditsky in Choice

    "The definitive version of a strange . . . and entirely captivating novel. The translation seems perfect."
    --Donald Richie in The Japan Times

    "The story's appeal lies in Ôgai's masterful prose and the many details evoking nostalgia for a bygone age. The translation provides a good sense of the original Japanese."
    --Publishers Weekly

    "Authoritative and eminently readable . . . a translation worthy of the original."
    --Edwin McClellan, Sumitomo Professor of Japanese Studies, Yale University
  • "I have long been fond of The Wild Goose. For more than a quarter of a century I have had an apartment at the top of the Muenzaka slope, where Otama lived and up and down which Okada had his evening walks. No house survives that is old enough to have been hers, but the Iwasaki wall still runs along one side of the narrow street, and people speak of her as if she were real and still among the inhabitants of the neighborhood. There is a more important reason than this personal one for being interested in the work. The author is numbered among the giants of modern Japanese prose, and it is among his last exercises in realistic fiction, and probably the best. It is a lively, well-told story the ending of which, unlike endings to much Japanese fiction, is very effective, with the gratuitous happening that spoils Otama's chances for happiness. We must be grateful to have, at length, a full translation from the skillful hand of Burton Watson."
    --Edward Seidensticker, Professor Emeritus of Japanese Literature, Columbia University

    "Ôgai was an exemplary prewar Japanese writer of national stature, and The Wild Goose (Gan), published serially in 1911-13, was his most esteemed work. . . . This version I find quite beautiful."
    --Rise (http://booktrek.blogspot.com/2012/04/wild-goose-mori-ogai.html)
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