Mushanokoji's Good Natured Man

Mushanokoji’s Good Natured Man 17 (Addendum 4)

The true and innate attraction between Ichiro and Shizu is interrupted. Yet at the same time, Ichiro and the woman he married do share a form of happiness—if merely a “conscious” happiness, with a lack and a longing at the centre of it. The anti-naturalistic narrative recedes from objectivity, into the pondering of a character within the imagination of a further character. But is the philosophical exercise moot: do these inner echoes serve merely to rationalize the author’s inadequate, misguided response to the actual object of his yearning—are they merely an impotent form of wish fulfilment?

The first image is by an unknown photographer, c. 1920. The second, of two women, is a hand-tinted albumen print taken by the Austrian photographer Baron Raimund von Stillfried, c. 1887.

Some years went by, and Ichiro also married. To most eyes, his wife was a more beautiful, more gracious woman even than Shizu.

Now, both Shizu and Ichiro each consider their own home to be a happy one. Yes, as far as they are aware, their family lives are both blissful. Shizu’s husband is a good man, just as she believed him to be. Ichiro’s wife is a good woman, as well.

Shizu has almost forgotten all about Ichiro. He has become all but oblivious of her. Yet there are times when the two will suddenly remember, and are thankful they did not follow the impulses of their youth. Soon, they will no longer think of each other, but will revert to a time when each was not even aware of the other.  But some things that do not come into their awareness will still resonate with them, as if they are sympathetic elements.

They still feel lonely at times. They have no idea why, but each will sometimes feel a longing. When Ichiro is unexpectedly happy, it is just when Shizu is unexpectedly happy. When from out of the blue Shizu suddenly saddens, that is when Ichiro saddens. The two are still in tune with each other.

Shizu loves her husband, Ichiro his wife. Nevertheless, both couples enjoy no emotional harmony beyond the sphere of consciousness. They are conscious couples, and all their conscious needs are satisfied. Fortunately, they are content with their present state, for they do not recognize the existence of the things of which they are unaware.

But even now, these things which they cannot feel and know languish in solitude, and so they love and adore each other.

(40th year of Meiji [1907])

English translation of Saneatsu Mushanokoji’s Omedetakihito (1910) by Michael Guest © 2022

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