The River Ki
The River Ki, short and swift and broad like most Japanese rivers, flows into the sea not far south of Osaka. On its journey seaward, it passes through countryside that has long been at the heart of traditional Japan. And it flows, too, past the mountains, past the dams, ditches, and rice fields that provide such a richly textured backdrop to this novel.
Powerful enough to sweep away people on its banks and placid enough to carry along with its flow a sumptuous wedding procession, the River Ki dominates the lives of the people who live in its fertile valley and imparts a vital strength to the three women—mother, daughter, and granddaughter—around whom this novel is built. It provides them with the courage to cope, in their different ways, with the unprecedented changes that occurred in Japan between the last years of the nineteenth century and the middle of the twentieth.
Sawako Ariyoshi, one of Japan's most successful modern novelists, describes this social and cultural revolution largely though the eyes of Hana, a woman with the vision and integrity to understand the inevitability of the death of the traditional order in Japan.
Ariyoshi writes with a love of detail bound to a broader understanding of the importance of the geographical and biological forces that mold her characters—and the result is a story that flows with all the vitality of the River Ki itself.
“A deft and subtle writer”—New York Times
“A beautiful book .... by a perceptive observer.”
—Donald Richie, Japan Times
“A story rich in detail, and characters affectionately depicted with humor and pathos.”
“A vivid portrait of a family in a changing society.” —Observer
“A powerful novel written with convincing realism.”—Japan Quarterly
About the Author
SAWAKO ARIYOSHI was born in 1931 in Wakayama City. As a student she developed a deep interest in the theater, both modern drama and traditional Kabuki, and her own plays are widely performed in Japan. Many of her novels have also been adapted for the stage, the cinema, and television.
Ariyoshi first rose to prominence in the 1950s as a writer of short stories, but has since built an impressive reputation as a novelist dealing with crucial social issues. Among her themes have been the problems faced by women in the traditional Japanese household (Hanaoka seishu no tsuma, 1967, translated as “The Doctor's Wife”), racial segregation in the United States (Hishoku, 1964), and environmental pollution (Fukugo-osen, 1975). Her Kokotsu no hito (The Twilight Years) was published in 1972 and sold over a million copies in less than a year.
Translations of her books have appeared throughout the world and include a French translation of The Doctor's Wife, which was a bestseller in France in 1981; The River Ki; The Twilight Years; Her Highness Princess Kazu, awarded the prestigious Mainichi Cultural Prize in 1979; and Kabuki Dancer.