Territory of Light

Most people have their in with Japanese fiction with Murakami or some manga, for me it was the novel In The Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami. When I finished reading Ryu Muakami about 10 years ago I started making a list of Japanese authors I wanted to read. At the moment there’s roughly 30 authors I’m eager to get through and right at the top of this list has been Yuko Tsushima. She’s a heavyweight when it comes to prize winning Japanese authors with both the Akutagawa, Yomiuri and Tanizaki prizes under her belt.

When I got a message saying my friend had received a proof of Territory of Light which is due to be published by Penguin Classics in April 2018 I was thrilled. I watched the post day after day waiting for this novella.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when starting Territory of Light, it’s such a short book.

A young woman who has recently separated from her husband moves into a new apartment, in Tokyo with her two-year-old daughter. The story is sheathed in light, whether its the warm, comforting light streaming through the apartment windows or the threatening glow from a mysterious distant explosion.

Starting this book was incredible, every few pages I found myself taking a deep breath and really had to process what I had just read. As I was reading about this character adjusting to living alone with her young daughter, I was sitting on my stairs, half doing everything I could to stop myself from crying my eyes out at this book, half listening for my daughter to stir in the night. The main character’s depiction of motherhood is honest and overwhelming. Passages about the child testing the mother’s endurance were hard hitting and weaved beautifully with descriptions of the mottled light shining through cherry blossoms or the glimmering reflections from flood water.

Considering Territory of Light was written in the 70s I found it relevant and the writing didn’t feel dated at all. Tsushima’s way with words will get the even the sturdiest of hearts, I was an emotional wreck by the time I finished the novella.

Yuko Tsushima is possibly my new favourite author.

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