Japan Today

A Boy Called H


If, say, he hadn't happened to be born in Japan, just when that country was embarking on the militaristic course that would lead to its ruin before he was out of his teens.... If his family hadn't been just out-of-the-ordinary enough to make him a nonconformist in an overwhelmingly conformist society... And if, above all, he hadn't had a precociously inquiring mind that would never be fobbed off with an easy answer...

But he was, and he had — and the final result is this personal account of his boyhood, a story so readable and so full of resonances subtly linking past and present that it became a runaway best-seller in Japan and other parts of Asia.

The episodes he describes in 50 short chapters range from humorous scenes of domestic life to the pathetic suicide of an army deserter; from an affectionate picture of country life to the horror of the fire bombs; from the naive celebrations of early victories to the frank bitterness of a war widow; from shock and relief at the Emperor's speech ending the war to the first encounters with the occupation forces; from the author's boyish exploits to the crisis of approaching adulthood that nearly ends his life.

The final effect is of a mosaic. The pieces are multicolored, but they come together to form, not one, but two pictures — of the development under extraordinary conditions of a boy who isn't especially virtuous or charitable and may at times be annoyingly overconfident, but who is basically likable and sensitive; and of a particular nation rushing half-blind into a great conflict that could only end in tragedy.

A rich, immediately accessible, eminently enjoyable double portrait that sheds new light on a turbulent period in history, "A Boy Called H" is engaging, well-crafted and original.

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This book was printed 8 years ago. Why are you reviewing it now? Trying to find more articles to keep those August war/peace drums banging?

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Probably just picked it up to read and thought of sharing it w/those who are 8-years-too-slow? ^^,

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Regardless of when it was printed and when it was reviewed, this was a brilliant book which I found really enjoyable all those years ago. If you haven't read the original japanese print would recommend you to read.

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I am a librarian in the US. My library has a copy and I just checked it out. I just hope nothing is lost in translation.

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magpie, I have read the book. It is a very good read. I was merely questioning the timing of the review. The book could have been reviewed at any other time of year.

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keech2 No disrespect to your comment. Agreed a very good book.

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magpie, no offense taken. Sorry that my post seems a bit abrupt.

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