Today’s review comes under the category of “At last!” Dr. Sarah Frederick’s discussion and translation of Yoshiya Nobuko’s Yellow Rose (黄薔薇) from her Hana Monogatari collection is available to us in English on Kindle from Expanded Editions press. It was worth every penny of the 299 pennies it cost – and to be perfectly honest, I would have paid considerably more to have it.
This epublication begins with a very excellent discussion of the time frame of the story, the symbolism it contains in the context of early 20th century Japanese literature, conjecture about the lacunae within the story and other literary and historical commentary. The kind of thing that reawakens my dormant inner Comp. Lit. major and makes me ridiculously happy. Even more personally meaningful, Frederick includes a small, but pointed rebuke to academic authors who do not acknowledge that reader’s impressions have both meaning and weight in popular thought. You may remember that that was my primary criticism of Passionate Friendships – that being cautioned to not see something as “lesbian” when, through my filter it could not be read as otherwise, is wasted effort. ^_^ Here Frederick acknowledges my point as, if not objectively verifiable, then at least subjectively valid.
The introduction was at least as good as the story itself. That alone would have been worth reading this for. But then, we get to enjoy one of the two “Yuri” stories from Hana Monogatari. In Yellow Rose, we meet a just-graduated young woman who is off to her first job as a teacher, only bare years older than her students and the student with whom she forms a romantic relationship. It is a short, fraught story with a surprisingly bleak ending. Even more unusually bleak, when compared with Otome no Minato a scant decade later. But, perhaps more importantly, while the ending is neither happy nor sad, it also does not contain the “marriage or death” ending that will plague Yuri narrative from the 1960s well into the 2000s.
The translation itself is…well, wonderful. Frederick is able to capture the early 20th-century constipated sentence structure while keeping both the narrator’s voice and the narrative whole.
In short, this was tail-waggingly good and if you are at all interested in early Yuri, early queer lit or basically anything that we care about here at Okazu, you should absolutely get this Kindle edition! (If you don’t have a Kindle or kindle app, you can read it on Amazon’s in-browser Kindle reader.)
Art – 9 The cover art is adapted from a Takabatake Kashō illustration ,“Bara no gensō” (薔薇の幻想). It suits this edition well.
Story – 8
Characters – 8 For such a short story, the protagonist is surprisingly three-dimensional.
Yuri – 6
Service – 2 That distinctively early 20th century verbal sensuality-service
Overall – 9
Thanks to Dr. Frederick for shout-outs to both Yuricon and Okazu. An unexpected surprise. Thank you!
Lastly I want to note the obvious, intentional irony of the one incontrovertibly not-‘S’ character in Maria-sama ga Miteru being the Yellow Rose, Torii Eriko.