Yudotei Enboku
Author: Noboru Tsujihara
Specifications: ISBN  978-4167316075
317 pages
10.6 x 15.2 cm / 4.2 x 6.1 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Bungeishunju Ltd.
Tokyo, 1999
Awards: Tanizaki Jun'ichiro Prize, 2000
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This is a collection of ten linked stories centering on young contemporary rakugo performer Yudotei Enboku, who goes blind when he is just about to be promoted to the rank of master storyteller. Author Noboru Tsujihara, known for the surprises he pulls on readers, is true to form in this work. The blinded Enboku stops performing and accepts the generous offer of a free apartment in the building his sister and her husband own. As he settles in among an odd collection of neighbors?from a man who got overextended in the real estate market to an illegal stowaway couple from China?he seems neither to be feeling particularly sorry for himself, nor to intend a full retirement from the rakugo stage; he spends his days aimlessly wandering about the neighborhood. Then at the end of the first story, which is the key to the entire collection, the author takes the sympathetic and charming character he has been shaping for readers and sends him to the bottom of a goldfish pond?after having first swallowed three of those goldfish. But while the reader remains in the dark as to whether he actually died or survived, Enboku returns to continue running the show in the stories that follow. He heals an ailing grandmother in a remote village and is hailed as a god; he nurses an ill-fated Chinese beauty; he takes a notion to perform again and gets back up on the rakugo stage. The distinctive voice of Enboku, both witty and lyrical, will surely be a challenge for the translator?not least because it is in an idiom no longer familiar even to Japanese readers today.