Read Requiem (Japan's Women Writers) by Shizuko Gō Geraldine Harcourt Online

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The end of World War II in the city of Yokohama, Japan, is portrayed through the heartfelt conversations and letters of two young women. Setsuko and Naomi, classmates and friends living in a bombed-out city, sort through their individual beliefs: "two girls, seventeen and fifteen at their next birthday, and though their real lives had yet to begin they were talking like olThe end of World War II in the city of Yokohama, Japan, is portrayed through the heartfelt conversations and letters of two young women. Setsuko and Naomi, classmates and friends living in a bombed-out city, sort through their individual beliefs: "two girls, seventeen and fifteen at their next birthday, and though their real lives had yet to begin they were talking like old folk lost in reminiscences. Or perhaps this was their old age, for the hour of their death was near, as they well knew." Everyone close to Setsuko is dead as a result of the war, yet she believes in the war unquestioningly and writes letters to soldiers on the front urging them to fight to the finish. Naomi's father is imprisoned because of his anti-war beliefs and she struggles to find justification for war. Over the course of the novel, through flashbacks that occur within sentences or paragraphs, the horrors of the war are brought painfully to life and each young woman questions her own stand. Who is more patriotic? What are the rules of war when it is in your front yard? Shizuko Go, herself a survivor of the bombing of Yokohama, has written a devastating and important novel. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Holly Smith...

Title : Requiem (Japan's Women Writers)
Author :
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ISBN : 9784770016188
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 132 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Requiem (Japan's Women Writers) Reviews

  • Aubrey
    2018-11-23 04:08

    Nowadays, though, she might write to her brother "Take care of yourself," but not "Please fight for the country with all your might." She had learned how hard her young heart must have been to have written that message over and over without a twinge of pain.A few GR people have this marked down as Young Adult, for whatever reason. It's about as Young Adult as Grave of the Fireflies is a children's movie, in that both happen to children and young adults and that's just the way it goes. Those who sniff and sneer at the younger audiences of genres, be grateful that these still fairly recent inventions of childhood and young adulthood didn't, in your case, incorporate all the trials and tribulations of firebombs and politics. Death has no minimum age. Consumption has no minimum age. Ideological indoctrination via imperialism and the military industrial complex has no minimum age, and if you can't tell whether I'm speaking of Japan or my own country: good. Even this gun-filled landscape of mine has its pockets where children viewed less as a target of mockery and more as target practice, but that's a story for another book.They'll shout their slogans about its sacredness and a hundred million glorious deaths, just as long as it's the common people whose lives are at stake, but when it's their turn, and the imperial system and the state itself—the justification for all their actions—come under threat, then there's no reason for them to continue the war.I keep coming back to World War II in reading because a. things get published and b. as time passes, more of the blanks continually erased by the dominant discourse are slowly but surely being filled in. There's not many fundamental differences between what this author wrote and her own experiences as a young Japanese girl in the early middle of the twentieth century, so if you want to quibble about textual condemnation of the Rape of Nanking, you've come to the wrong place. This is war. That means suicide instead of defeat, the leeching of traitors, sacrifice upon sacrifice upon sacrifice until pride outlives faith and survival is rendered nonsensical by being the only one left. It does not often mean a socioeconomic evaluation of life and death on a global scale, but here the author puts this to the forefront, for which I am grateful. Such a viewpoint makes the publication of this in English translation unsurprising, but when the US has as much a penchant for the enshrinement of war criminals in the slightly different terms of city streets and dollar bills, some ugly truths surface as a direct result of the stifling.Well, I thought, America's not stingy with its bombs.Don't read this if you're looking for a happy ending, or a reason to hate Japanese people, or a reason to hate women, or a reason to hate Japanese women, etc, etc, etc. it's a semi-epistolary novel between two Japanese girls on the cusp of respective adulthoods, opposite sides of a nurturing dichotomy rendered null and void by military operations and various lists of casualties. Give it to your kid, if you like, but only if you're prepared to tell the truth.And people will still have to go on living after the war's over, you know.

  • G.G.
    2018-12-07 07:03

    Requiem is a classic “I-novel,” in which the author’s own experiences are related in the third person via a fictional alter ego. Shizuko Gô (1929-2014) was sixteen and suffering from tuberculosis when—quite by chance—she survived the firebombing of Yokohama in May 1945. The same is true of the heroine of this novel, Ôizumi Setsuko, whose experience of the aftermath of the raids is described pp. 57-65. Setsuko survives, only to succumb to illness just as the American occupation troops begin to arrive.The novel is cleverly constructed as if to reflect the chaotic dreams of a young woman slipping in and out of consciousness: vivid memories rise to the surface and are narrated, then fade with the dawning of another day that Setsuko will have to drag herself through, unable to conceive of surrender.She knew Japan wasn’t winning. But defeat and surrender weren’t the same thing. They might be beaten, but they would never surrender. They would fight till the last man, woman and child had fallen. Wasn’t that why, each time there was news of a Glorious Sacrifice—Attu, Saipan, Okinawa—they had sworn with ever-deeper conviction to defend their homeland against invasion? So Setsuko had been taught, had believed, had lived. (p. 21)Setsuko’s convictions depicted here and her numb acceptance of the death of everyone she has ever cared for ring absolutely true. The scene above continues:When the all clear sounded, Setsuko spread out one of the pieces of newspaper she was carrying instead of tissue paper, and lowered [workmate] Jun Sawabe’s head onto it. Then she covered his face with a white square of artificial silk, a special-issue item for bombed out families. And then she went slowly back to her workplace, alone. She stopped at the washbasin to rinse the blood from her hands and drink a little water. “Mr. Sawabe of Section Three has died in action.” (p. 21)There’s a subplot, told via letters, involving Naomi, a school friend of Setsuko’s whose father, a scholar of French literature, is imprisoned for thought crimes, including ordering the novel Les Thibault (1922-40) by Roger Martin du Gard (1881-1958) from the Maruzen bookstore. This subplot enables the author to present the views of another young woman, one who saw the war differently from Setsuko’s blind faith. But in the end Requiem is, I think, the author’s act of atonement for surviving:It was agony to think of those who would not rise: the dead would be left where they fell at the ends of the earth while the living would come home with their knapsacks of clothing and food. Whether they had gone to the front or stayed at home, the people had staked their lives for country and Emperor, and after they had lost, the country and the Emperor were still there. Then what had it all meant? (p. 97)

  • Robert Beveridge
    2018-12-02 04:54

    Shizuko Go, Requiem (Kodansha International, 1973)One of the review blurbs on the back of Requiem calls it "The Japanese counterpart of Anne Frank's diary". Actually, Requiem is a much better book than The Diary of a Young Girl; Go does a fine job of weaving her main character's dying moments in with recollections of the last year of her life. Go gives us no illusions from page one; her main character, Setsumo Oizumi, is lying in a bomb shelter close to death, clutching a grey notebook containing letters from her best friend, Naomi Niwa, and the flashbacks alternate between letters between the two of them and scenes from Oizumi's life.Where this short novel fails, and this is rare in Japanese novels, is in its lack of reserve. Go wanted to pen a horrors-of-war novel, and for the most part she succeeds. Much of the book uses the imagery of war, and Oizumis developing disillusionment with the war effort, to convey its pacifist message. But every once in a while Go drops the veil and comes out with a passage where the message overrides the medium; the book goes from a fine, sparse novel to a political polemic. There is never a point where this gets out of hand, and Go recovers herself quickly every time; still, one feels that perhaps one final revision under the watchful eye of an editor concerned more with the craft of writing than the art might have been a good idea.Still, there is much to like here. You can safely ignore another of the reviewlets on the back ("Should be compulsory reading for every Western schoolchild.") that would imply this to be a "bad Americans! go to your room without supper!" polemic; there is more of All Quiet on the Western Front here than there is Johnny Got His Gun, and Go's message is directed not at any one set of allies but at the futility of war in general. There are no guilt trips to be had aside from those all of humanity shares. Recommended. *** ½

  • Stephen Douglas Rowland
    2018-12-09 10:54

    Sometimes poignant, but just as often melodramatic, and for the most part dull. I have to be honest -- even at a mere 122 pages, it felt like a slog. I usually dig the relentlessly grim, but Gō's scattershot construction left me unable to feel much of anything for the characters.

  • Livy
    2018-11-13 05:58

    This book was incredible, it pulls at the strings of the heart, and is truly soul wrenching. It's amazingly beautiful and despairingly ugly at the same time. All I wish is that I would've found this book sooner.The book is about Setsuko, a sixteen year old dying in an air-raid shelter, as she goes back through her memories and lift of growing up in WWII japan as a patriotic Japanese girl and her friendship with Naomi the daughter of a man imprisoned for the crime of "Thought."I would recommend this book for anyone.

  • Karlo Mikhail
    2018-11-29 09:21

    I like the way the horrors of the American bombing spree are shown in the novel. I also like how it gives space to Japanese voices who opposed the war and for this very reason were repressed by the imperial state. The book offers an excellent account on how the Japanese ideological apparatus worked to impart chauvinist patriotism and fascist ethos among its population to support imperialist adventures abroad.

  • Danielle
    2018-12-02 11:01

    Good book that demonstrates the nationalism taught and ingrained into young Japanese school children. Provides a narrative of a character against the war as well. Insightful into the often forgot fire bombings of Japan during WWII by America that were devastating killing thousands. Great commentary on war and it's questions.

  • Meg Bee
    2018-11-24 04:09

    Fantastically heartbreaking.

  • mart
    2018-11-30 04:04

    (This is a fictional work.) A young Japanese girl's account of the end of WW2. Upsetting but very good.