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Monday Reading: The Wild Geese by Ogai Mori

I love small books, novellas….I can read them at a setting and take in an entire story. With the classic The Wild Geese by Ogai Mori, written in such an old style, which must have lost so much in translation…I took several sittings.

Not because it was a difficult read, quite the contrary. But I wanted to savor the book’s very Japanese and also very old-world charm, celebrate each sentence and scene for all its worth.

Wikipedia provides an interesting synopsis:

Suezo, a moneylender, is tired of life with his nagging wife, so he decides to take a mistress. Otama, the only child of a widower merchant, wishing to provide for her aging father, is forced by poverty to become the moneylender’s mistress. When Otama learns the truth about Suezo, she feels betrayed, and hopes to find a hero to rescue her. Otama meets Okada, a medical student, who becomes both the object of her desire and the symbol of her rescue.

But to me the intensity of the book lies in its somewhat tragic end, where a coincidence and a cruelly ironic yet commonplace incident spoils the reader’s hopes. Not the hopes in the writing, which is luminous, nor the story, which is masterfully told, but in how the reader wants the story to end. 

And those, I think, are some of the best books, where you want to re-imagine the ending, want to appeal to the absent author to set everything right with the world.

But as in life, this does not happen in the book, and you leave it with a bittersweet feeling.

I picked up this book on an impulse, and I’m glad I did.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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4 Comments

  • Damyanti says:

    Bryce, hope you're well too!

    If you mean the letter-writing experiment, I have three peopleI've begun to correspond with. That is to say, I've written them letters and will receive their replies in a month or so 🙂

    I e-mailed you as well, don't know if you received it.

    I haven't seen the Stories of Sendai book myself, because Amazon shipping to my part of the world takes a lot of time…but I hope the book does well because it is all for a cause and the editors worked very hard indeed!

  • Hi, Damyanti!

    Hope things are well. This story does sound sad, but I might have to check it out.

    How goes your writing "experiment?"
    Also, any news on how the Stories for Sendai anthology is doing?

    My best to you-

  • Damyanti says:

    It is a little sad, but I liked it all the same :). Nice to have you here too, Misha!

  • Misha says:

    Sounds like a wonderful (if sad) story.

    Glad to stop by here again.

    🙂

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