‘Ugly Demons’ by Yumiko Kurahashi, translated by Lane Dunlop

A man looks back twenty years to the summer when he was seventeen, one spent on the beach (and in bed) with his girlfriend, M. Yet what sounds like a gentle, nostalgic tale is anything but, with the narrator spinning a story of gender struggles, domination and depression. The story twists the summer, imagining dangerous headlands, dead stars spinning just round the coast, as well as the discovery of a stranger, left for dead on the beach, whose dark skin comes to represent the blackness inside the narrator’s soul. A warning: the writer’s use in this 1965 story of a ‘negro’ character, real or invented, might offend modern readers, but the overall sense of allegory and symbolism works wonderfully.

First published in translation Mississippi Review, Vol. 9, No. 1/2 1980. Included in Autumn Wind and Other Stories, Tuttle Publishing, 1994