By Akiyuki Nosaka
“Too many undernourished people and animals appear in these stories, I know, but it was wartime, after all.”
Every story in Akiyuki Nosaka’s collection is set on the day of Japan’s unconditional surrender, an act which formerly ended World War II on 15th August 1945.
The fictional pieces in The Cake Tree in the Ruins are based on the author’s own childhood memories of living through the Allied firebombing of Kobe – a catastrophic raid in which his mother and father perished (his sister later starved to death) – and has been translated into English by Ginny Tapley Takemori.
These dark but inventive tales emphasize the hideous realities of war. From a heart-rending story in which a lonely Sardine Whale falls tragically in love with a submarine, to the narrative of a mother desperately trying to save her son’s life with her tears, we are reminded that war is cruel and ugly, and should never be glorified.
There are no happily ever afters in this short book, merely a series of simply-told stories suffused with immense suffering, profound sadness and startling beauty.
Released in Britain on the anniversary of Japan’s surrender, this grim garland is part of the Pushkin Collection, which specialises in publishing masterworks from around the world in aesthetically appealing covers.
Many thanks to Pushkin Press for providing a review copy of this title.