Territory of Light is a book written by Yuko Tsushima, daughter of Osamu Dazai, one of Japan’s most famous writers. Winner of the Kawabata and Tanizaki prizes, Tsushima lost her life in 2016. However, her books are still read worldwide, and it’s not hard to understand why.
A lonely mother in Tokyo
Territory of Light was first published in the Japanese literary magazine Gunzo, so the book consists of twelve chapters. (One chapter per month.) We are reading a year of the woman narrator whose name we do not know. This young woman lives alone with her three-year-old daughter in Tokyo. She has just left her husband and goes to search for a house to live with her daughter. This short book tells the story of what it’s like to be a lonely mother in Tokyo. Tsushima was also a single mother, and this is one of the reasons why the book is so impressive.
The book may not be as attractive to everyone as the subject matter, but Tsushima’s effortless and delicate narrative, her depictions of the spaces will hunt you long after you have read the book. You will read how patriarchal Japan is, and also you will see how hard it is to raise a child alone.
About the book: Territory of Light
‘Wonderfully poetic … extraordinary freshness … a Virginia Woolf quality’ Margaret Drabble
Territory of Light is the radiant story of a young woman, living alone in Tokyo with her two-year-old daughter. Its twelve chapters follow the first year of the narrator’s separation from her husband. The novel is full of light, sometimes comforting and sometimes dangerous: sunlight streaming through windows, dappled light in the park, distant fireworks, dazzling floodwater, de-saturated streetlamps and mysterious explosions. The delicate prose is beautiful: the cumulative effect is disarmingly powerful and bright after-images remain in your mind for a long time.
About the author: Yuko Tsushima
Satoko Tsushima, known by her pen name Yūko Tsushima, was a Japanese fiction writer, essayist and also a critic. Tsushima won many of Japan’s top literary prizes in her career, including the Izumi Kyōka Prize for Literature, the Noma Literary New Face Prize, the Noma Literary Prize, the Yomiuri Prize, and the Tanizaki Prize.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: