From one of the most significant contemporary Japanese writers, a haunting, dazzling novel of loss and rebirth
“Yuko Tsushima is one of the most important Japanese writers of her generation.” —Foumiko Kometani, The New York Times
I was puzzled by how I had changed. But I could no longer go back . . .
It is spring. A young woman, left by her husband, starts a new life in a Tokyo apartment. Territory of Light follows her over the course of a year, as she struggles to bring up her two-year-old daughter alone. Her new home is filled with light streaming through the windows, so bright she has to squint, but she finds herself plummeting deeper into darkness, becoming unstable, untethered. As the months come and go and the seasons turn, she must confront what she has lost and what she will become.
At once tender and lacerating, luminous and unsettling, Yuko Tsushima’s Territory of Light is a novel of abandonment, desire, and transformation. It was originally published in twelve parts in the Japanese literary monthly Gunzo, between 1978 and 1979, each chapter marking the months in real time. It won the inaugural Noma Literary Prize.
About the Author
Yuko Tsushima was born in Tokyo in 1947, the daughter of the novelist Osamu Dazai, who took his own life when she was one year old. Her prolific literary career began with her first collection of short stories, Shaniku-sai (Carnival), which she published at the age of twenty-four. She won many awards, including the Izumi Kyoka Prize for Literature (1977), the Kawabata Prize (1983), and the Tanizaki Prize (1998). She died in 2016.
Winner of the Lindsley and Masao Miyoshi Translation Prize
"Territory of Light has the subtle, harrowing shades of Marie Darrieussecq’s My Phantom Husband and Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment, though both were written decades later . . . It is not a neat story of awakening or transformation but of the fearful joy of the unobscured horizon, of how the freshly unstructured life gapes with promise and paralysis alike . . . In Tsushima’s unburdened territory, every corner is filled with light and there is nowhere to hide, for there need not be—not for those who seek illumination." —Emily LaBarge, Bookforum
"[Tsushima] wrote novels strikingly ahead of their time—especially in Japan—that nailed the struggles and consolations of single women in a patriarchal culture . . . Tsushima’s treatment isn’t just bracingly honest but bold in leaving room for unexpected outcomes, including happiness." —Boris Kachka, Vulture
“[Territory of Light] could have been written today . . . [The narrator’s] sleep-deprived agonies strike us with the power of primal thoughts rarely voiced. They pierce the heart of the Western slogan in vogue even then: that women can have it all . . . From the suicide of her father to the 1985 accidental death of her small son, Tsushima learned more than once that the world will do its worst, no matter how you feel about your own culpability. There’s no sense, she seemed to say through her fiction, in blaming yourself for all the ugly things life brings along, which society does nothing—at best—to prevent. As individuals alone in that society, people ‘on our own,’ all we can do is try to make things better, greener, brighter.” —Sheila McClear, New York
"Harsh but often ravishingly beautiful . . . Slender, restrained." —Lidija Haas, Harper’s
"Spare, yet complex and melancholy . . . Has a timelessness to it." —Clea Simon, Boston Globe
"Lovely, melancholy . . . Tsushima's prose is achingly elegant, well worth lingering over . . . Each chapter is as elegant and self-contained as a pearl or a perfectly articulated drop of water." —Kirkus (starred review)
"A young woman confronts life as a single mother in this graceful, eye-opening novel from Tsushima (1937–2016), one of the most influential feminists in Japanese literature . . . Equal parts brutal and tender, Tsushima’s portrait of the strains and joys of motherhood is captivating." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Fragmented, and rich in dreams and memories, the book is suffused with images of light and water . . . Geraldine Harcourt’s translation subtly conveys the narrator’s precarious grip on reality . . . Spiky, atmospheric and intimate, filled with moments of strangeness that linger in the mind like an after-image on the retina, Territory of Light is not a comforting read, but it will touch women across frontiers.” —Lee Langley, The Spectator (London)
“[Territory of Light’s] twelve linked tales of the city are fine-grained to the point of mundanity—finding an apartment, discovering a leak, visiting a park—but in Tsushima’s hands they achieve a deceptive, luminous clarity . . . In this short, powerful novel lurk the joy and guilt of single parents everywhere.” —Peter Beech, The Guardian
“Reflects, like a crystal, scattered moments in the life of an unnamed mother . . . Bracing, often breathtaking.” —John Self, The Irish Times