Fiction. Asian American Studies. Translated from the Japanese by Andrew Leong. LAMENT IN THE NIGHT collects two remarkable novellas by the author Shōson Nagahara, translated from the Japanese for the first time. The title novella, originally published in 1925, follows itinerant day laborer Ishikawa Sazuko as he prowls the back alleys and bathhouses of Los Angeles, looking for a meal, a job or just someone to hold onto. The second novella follows a young mother working her way through bars and nightclubs after being abandoned by her gambling-addicted husband. Written in a deadpan tone that is both evocative and precise, this dazzling exercise in 1920s naturalist noir promises to become a classic of American literature. This first-ever English language publication of Lament in the Night opens up a whole realm of American literature that has been woefully underpublished and unexplored—namely, the literary heritage of non-English-speaking immigrants in America. Nagahara was influenced by many Western writers—especially Knut Hamsun, whose work he translated into Japanese—and his novels combine the gritty sensibility of Los Angeles noir with elements of Japanese traditional storytelling and epistolary techniques.
Nagahara Shōson is the pen name of Nagahara Hideaki. We know very little about the life of Nagahara. Besides the information that we can glean from his writings, we can trace a few scattered immigration and census records. According to these records, he was born in 1901 (possibly 1900) in Yamauchi-nishimura, a small village in the northeast of Hiroshima Prefecture. Prior to coming to the United States, he lived with his paternal grandfather in Ushita-mura, which was then a northern suburb of the city of Hiroshima. He arrived in the United States at the age of seventeen in August of 1918, arriving in Seattle, Washington, with plans to meet his father and another male relative who were working for the Utah Copper Mining Company in Magna, Utah. In 1920, Nagahara resided in a boarding house in Los Angeles and listed his occupation as "railroad worker." Three of Nagahara's works are still extant. After 1928, the documentary trail of Nagahara goes cold. There is no evidence that he ever married, or had children, owned a business, or bought or leased property in the United States. He does not appear in the 1930 census, nor does his name appear in War Relocation Authority records of World War II internees. We do not yet know if he ever returned to Japan, and have yet to determine when and where he died, or where his final resting place might be. Author City: Hiroshima JAP