Shame In The Blood

To me, it all came down to blood. My suspicion was that the very blood that linked us all could itself be tainted. And the most frightening thing was the inevitable reality that the tainted blood of my siblings also ran through my veins. I would have to live my whole life fighting the deadly lure of my tainted blood. I felt a terrible self loathing when I realized that my life would be a constant struggle against my own blood. So it was only natural that I should feel a terrible fear passing this blood on to my children – blood that could cause my own ruin at any time

Intriguing blurb, isn’t it?

I picked this book out of so many books in Japan foundation library simply because of that blurb. It was such thought provoking blurb, it made me wonder what’s the story is about.

The book consists of 6 short stories with same character in 5 stories, only the last one has different character. Shinobugawa (A Portrait of Shino); Haji no Fu (Shame in the Blood); Kikyo (Homecoming); Shoya (Face of Death); and Gento Gashu (Magic Lantern Show) are short stories that linked with each other. Danran (And All Promenade!) is the only story that has no connection at all with the previous stories.

The first 5 shorts tell the story of a man who felt that his blood was cursed. His feeling raised due to misfortunes in his family, 2 of his sisters committed suicide, one poisoned herself and the other drowned herself in the sea. Both his big brothers ran away leaving the family without any words. During his college days, He met a nice woman named Shino, a very humble woman. She chose him over a man who was wealthier than him. On the day his father about to die, she asked him to come to her village. She wanted her father to see the man she had chosen for a husband before he died. Her father died not long after he met Shino’s man. The main character took Shino to his village. The remaining members of his family (father, mother and an older sister who was still single) were happy to accept Shino into their family. Shino loved her new family. They were married even though the man was still in college. This was told in A Portrait of Shino.

I really like the first story. It showed what a wonderful woman Shino was. She was a strong woman that always tried to make the best out of everything. This surely is my favorite story in the book.

In Shame in The Blood, the main character told Shino that he didn’t want to have any child yet because of his cursed blood. The man continued his study in Tokyo while Shino stayed in the village with his family. He visited Shino every time he had school holidays. Out of their plan, Shino became pregnant. Everyone was so happy except the man and Shino. They went for an abortion. But after seeing his father died in natural cause, he became sure that it was fine to have a baby now.

I find this story a bit unusual, I kept on thinking how exaggerate this man was. Maybe it’s because I don’t have any shame with my bloodline so I really can’t relate to the story at all.

Homecoming tell the story of their marriage life in Tokyo. This one is also another story I found a bit unsettling. The main character was a writer and he refused to do any job but writing. Shino had to work to support their life. The man admitted he felt like a mule but he still didn’t do anything. When I read this, my brain was screaming “Ow, come on! What kind of husband are you?” It’s okay to pursuit the dream of becoming a writer but he still had to work in between his time to write, he had a wife and an upcoming baby to think about. The story reminded me of Stephen King, he kept on writing while maintaining his job as English Teacher. He quit his job only after he had Carrie sold to a publisher.

Face of Death tell the story how his father died and Magic Lantern Show was about his childhood.

And All Promenade! is a story about husband and wife. The story drifted from their life in the apartments to the wife’s past life.

As a whole, the book was a letdown. It didn’t bore me because I could still finish it but it has no real conclusion. Miura walked us through the life of a man whose life was similar with his own life experience (I think this book is his semi-biography)…but Miura left us hanging there without a conclusion. When I read Sputnik Sweetheart by Murakami, even though it has no real ending but I can feel that the ending is something we all have to figure out. As for this book, the ending feels like he couldn’t find the word to finish it.

I think the reason I could finish the book was because of Shino, her character captured my heart since the beginning of the story. I read it till the end because I wanted to know what happen to her next. Reading the last 2 stories that didn’t involve Shino was a struggle. Part of me wanted to stop while the other part was saying, “You went this far, you might as well finish it!” … So, I did finish it.

Book Details

Title: Shame in the Blood
Author: Tetsuo Miura
Language: English (Original language: Nihongo, translated by Andrew Driver)
Pages: 216 pages
Publisher: Shoemaker Hoard
Rating: 2 stars
Challenge: New Author  Challenge 2011

About The Author

Tetsuo Miura was born in 1931 in Aomori, Japan. After dropping out of Waseda University, he worked for awhile as a school teacher, but when four of his five siblings committed suicide or ran away, he left teaching behind, feeling that his family carried a curse. He rematriculated at Waseda and began writing. After Shinobugawa won the Akutagawa Prize, he pursued writing as a way to purify his “cursed blood”, producing a series of novels. His other works include Umi no Michi (The Path of the Sea), depicting the “red-haired harbor geisha” born to foreign sailors and Japanese mother; Shonen Sanka (Hymn of the Young Men), describing the young Japanese who traveled to Europe on an official mission in 1582; and Byakakuya o tabisuru hitobito (the white-night travelers), the tale of a misfortune family. His awards include Akutawa Prize for Literature, the Noma Literary Prize, the Japan Literature Grand Prize, the Osaragi Jiro Prize, and the Kawabata Prize. Shame in the Blood is the author’s first book translated into English.

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