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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Love of Mountains

Uno Koji

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Love of Mountains

Title: Love of Mountains
Author: Uno Koji
Genre: Stories
Written: 1919/1923 (Eng. 1997)
Length: 207 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Love of Mountains - US
Love of Mountains - UK
Love of Mountains - Canada
  • Contains the stories In the Storehouse (Kura no naka, 1919) and Love of Mountains (Yamagoi, 1923)
  • Translated and with an Introduction by Elaine Tashiro Gerbert
  • Warning: Elaine Gerbert writes: "The reader of Japanese may notice that my translations do not always strictly follow the sentence order or even the paragraphing of the original texts. On many occasions I shortened sentences and broke up paragraphs to convey more effectively what I believe to be the essential aspects of Uno's writing -- namely its ludic, humorous, and especially critical quality."

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Our Assessment:

B : enjoyable, but nothing extraordinary

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
World Literature Today . Spring/1998 Erik R. Lofgren

  From the Reviews:
  • "The rambling, involuted, self-conscious style of "In the Storehouse" is an ideal vehicle for chronicling the protagonist's love affairs with kimono and, almost as an aside, the object of his dalliances as he wore each. Uno's oblique literary allusions to contemporaries and earlier writers of shishosetsu only reinforce the satiric quality of the prose. "Love of Mountains" exhibits a sharper satire tinged with the romanticism prevalent at the time of its writing. Constant stylistic variations and sudden shifts in time defamiliarize the shishosetsu, while providing an engaging tale of occluded inspiration and unrequited love" - Erik R. Lofgren, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Love of Mountains collects two of Uno Koji's stories, In the Storehouse and the title-piece (which, at over a hundred pages, is practically novella-length). Elaine Gerbert also offers a fairly detailed introduction to the author and his work, especially regarding these two pieces from early in his career.
       In In the Storehouse the impoverished author Yamaji tries to relate his current circumstances. He means to tell a story, but constantly gets sidetracked, carried away by his thoughts and observations. He frequently begs indulgence from the reader -- and even suggests a more active role for the reader, willing to give up most of the control over his story:

No, that's not the proper order; I've been sidetracked again. ... Please feel free to change, to rearrange ... as you listen
       The main thing he tries to relate is his relationship with all the goods he's pawned, most notably his kimonos and futon. It's a ridiculous arrangement: the cost alone in interest payments -- which he faithfully makes (while not being very conscientious regarding his other bills) -- is more than many of the items are worth. It's even gotten so far that he's renting the kimono he currently wears from the pawnshop ..... He can't bear to think of losing his ownership-interest in these goods, which is why he doesn't just sell them, holding on in this way to the past and what success and happiness he had then.
       Yamaji is forty years old, and his life is a mess. The clothes in the pawnshop are among the few things he has to hold onto -- and he can't even hold onto them directly, but rather only through the pawn-tickets. Kept safely neat and orderly there these pawned items are a stark contrast and reminder of how his own life has become undone. Among his big projects is to borrow them from the pawnshop, in order to air them out himself -- an undertaking that is only moderately successful, confusing the fairly rigid roles pawnbroker and pawner have.
       It's a comic tale: Yamaji is a hapless fellow, with his writerly idiosyncrasies and inability to right his life, but he's generally content enough and an amiable narrator. Women give him some trouble, and one at the pawnshop adds to the complications in his life that he can't quite handle. The story is amusing in how it's told, Yamaji rambling about, apologising to the reader, wondering which direction to go in -- a reflection of his own life.
       Love of Mountains is a more ambitious narrative, again told by a writer, though he is a more successful novelist. He is passionate about mountains, distant ideals he can admire but that he never conquers. The focus of the story is the author's visits to the resort-town of Shimo Suwa. He falls in love there with a geisha named Yumeko, but can not form a happy relationship with her and eventually marries another, Kotaki. Yumeko, however, remains his obsession:
     As you know, I am a novelist and at that time had already written several novels that were essentially about my relationship with her.
       This novella, too, focusses on her: the author describes other events and relationships, including several friendships he makes, but almost everything always returns to Yumeko. Like the mountains he professes to love she remains always out of reach.
       The episodes, especially the visits to Suwa -- first open, then furtive --, and the transformations of the characters (several of whom move to Tokyo, including, of course, the narrator's new bride) are well handled. Cognizant of the dreams and aspirations of others, the author recounts these in trying to deal with his own, but Yumeko can almost never be displaced. He understands that it is a futile and even harmful dream he harbours, and that even dealing with it in his writing is dangerous (as the character might be recognised for her true-life counterpart), but he can't help himself. He also harbours few illusions: Yumeko is not a romanticised ideal, but that makes his passion for her no less overwhelming.
       With the text broken up, practically every paragraph separated from the next (though apparently some of this was the translator's doing), the story advances bit by bit, with detail and side-stories that make it seem more a condensed novel than an expansive story.

       Uno writes thoughtfully and humorously. The stories are entertaining if not entirely compelling (Love of Mountains seems unceratainly stuck between story- and novel-length, and might have done better either pruned back or puffed up). With authors as narrators in both there's quite a bit of self-conscious (and parodying) literary playfulness, and it would be interesting to see how Uno handles a story not centred around a writer.
       Certainly of some interest, but not particularly remarkable.

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Love of Mountains: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Uno Koji lived 1891 to 1961.

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