‘A Bond for Two Lifetimes – Gleanings’ by Fumiko Enchi, translated by Phyllis Birnbaum

Enchi, one of the most successful modern female writers, is well known for her interest in Japanese literary history, and ‘A Bond for Two Lifetimes – Gleanings’ uses Akinari Ueda’s Tales of Spring Rain, a series of supernatural tales, as the centre of its frame narrative. A widow of around thirty visits her former professor to transcribe his modern versions of Ueda’s tales, and we are privileged to hear the old man’s version of one of them (which is also the inspiration for Haruki Murakami’s novel Killing Commendatore). However, an erotic undercurrent pervades Enchi’s story, with the woman remembering life with her dead husband and passes the professor made at her in the past. Inevitably, then, on leaving the professor’s house, she encounters a man in the dark – but who could it be…

First published in 1957 andincluded in The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories, Penguin Classics, 2018

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