Reviews

American Stories

Helen Godolphin

American Stories by Nagai Kafu (Columbia University Press) are about Kafu's travels and studies in the United States. They were written in the first decade of the twentieth century but have only just been translated into English. Set in Seattle, Kalamazoo and New York, the stories are written in a strangely pleasing stilted prose. (How much is due to the translation I'm not sure.) Kara has a fascination with the "pleasure quarters" of the coastal cities and many of these stories are set in bars, brothels and seedy streets, although a couple unfold at a theological college in Kalamazoo. Because of his consistent focus the stories can feel repetitious, but the book is an interesting portrait of turn-of-the-century America from a Japanese perspective. The cameo appearance by a sturdy Canadian prostitute is good for a chuckle.

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