Translation: Ted Goossen


Reconciliation by Naoya Shiga, translated into English for the first time more than a century after its publication, is an extremely powerful and universal reflection on acceptance and reconciliation.

This is a classic example of shishosetsu – “novels about yourself” – which became popular in Japan at the beginning of the 20th century under the influence of Western literature, especially naturalistic trends. Shiga talks about his life as a writer, father, husband and son, in concise and painfully honest descriptions of everyday events, work and family life. Although the story is not completely autobiographical, Shiga changes reality only to extract the essence from the things he experienced and make them as real as possible.

Shiga’s style is quite unique: impartial, direct, blunt, simple – and yet full of details, thanks to which the described experiences are not too full of sentimentality, on the contrary, they draw in and fascinate. The most famous and harrowing passage describes the sudden illness and death of his two-month-old daughter, which is a turning point for the narrator, forcing him to look at the world differently.

Shiga masterfully describes what we all struggle with at different times in life: tragic events and the passage of time that heals wounds; the process of accepting the things we cannot change; growing up, which is also necessary in our adulthood. And the titlular reconciliation, in an extremely lifelike way, sometimes turns out to be more than a profound experience – a compromise between two tired people.

Whenever I turned to write about my own life, I had to fight the temptation to indiscriminately record everything. So many events could be recalled, and I felt compelled to list every one. Yet. though each had its importance in the overall scheme of things, there was no way to stitch them together effectively. If I tried, gaps appeared in my writing, and I was unhappy. Thus I had to struggle to learn to edit out thing I really wanted to include. This problem was especially acute when tried to write about my conflict with Father.

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