The Hunting Gun

The Hunting Gun
Yasushi Inoue
Michael Emmerich (Translator)

Here, in a scant 112 pages, Inoue explains the depths of one man's soul expressed on his face in one passing moment.

Written in 1948, Inoue was a new writer, but already in his 40s and arrived on the scene as a talent to be taken seriously. He followed this work with another short novel, The Bull Fighter, which one him the Akutagawa Prize, assuring he would be taken seriously as a writer.

The Hunting Gun is mainly framed inside of three letters, written to one man, from three women in his life. It is written in an noticeably poetic style, lyrical and suggestive from beginning to end. For such a short work, with no crime or murder, it felt like it was unfolding a mystery at a meticulously controlled pace, right before the readers eyes.

What mystery is that?

The mystery of a look on a man's face as he passed by our author.

Now, maybe that is a mystery seemingly unworthy of such a deep investigation, but, as we find, that is not true, and beyond the simple truth, haven't we all stared at someone and dreamt of the reasons for their scowl, or tired eyes, or smile.

Beyond wondering, I think many of us paint a wide story in the few moments of passing these people. Maybe those stories are just portraits of ourselves, but here, Inoue (or his writer character) in a stroke of luck is able to find the answers to his curiosities, or at least an answer as given by the wife, the lover, and her daughter.

I would recommend this book, especially for the quickness of the read and the way it held interest like a mystery, but did feel that the three letter writers felt a bit distant to me. Maybe if I read it again I would gain more, knowing the answers and being able to focus on the meaning of their words more than the answer to our mystery. But, either way, I found this to be a beautiful and intriguing book and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in post war Japanese literature.

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