‘The Breast’ by Yuriko Miyamoto, translated by Heather Bowen-Struyk

This 1935 story is one of the better pieces in an intriguing collection of proletarian writing, mainly for the female slant it provides on the class struggle in Japan. In a highly autobiographical tale, a woman runs a childcare centre for local workers and visits her prison-bound husband whenever possible. Meanwhile, she liaises with activists trying to organise a strike, only to see that not everyone is pulling in the same direction – yet as a woman she’s powerless to help. The breast in question is her own, that of a woman who has never had children, and she represents a whole raft of women working hard to support the men plotting for better conditions, without really being able to have their say. She must put her trust in these men, even when she suspects that not all of them are who they say they are.

Written 1935-37. Included in For Dignity, Justice, and Revolution: An Anthology of Japanese Proletarian Literature, The University of Chicago Press, 2016