Fumiko Enchi (ehn-chee) is one of Japan’s most notable novelists and dramatists. She was born Fumi Ueda, the second daughter of Kazutoshi Ueda, a well-known scholar of Japanese language. From early childhood Enchi was surrounded with and fascinated by classical Japanese literature. She often attended Kabuki performances with her family, and her paternal grandmother, Ine Ueda, read fictions of the Edo period to her. Enchi was influenced by the decadent aestheticism of the plays and stories of the Edo period, and she enjoyed living in a fantastic, mysterious world of her own, which contributed much to her development as a writer. Before completing her studies at the Girls’ High School of the Japan Women’s University, she left to study drama. Yet she continued studying English, French, and classical Japanese with private tutors.
In 1926 her first drama, “Furusato” (hometown), appeared in a magazine called Kabuki. A performance of Banshu soya (tumultuous spring) at the Tsukiji Little Theater received high praise. This play showed her sympathy with the proletarian literature movement, which was flourishing in Japan at that time. Enchi’s family, however, pressured her to give up both her political interests and her relationship with a left-wing married writer, Teppei Kataoka. In 1930 she married the journalist Yoshimatsu Enchi, and two years later she became the mother of their daughter, Motoko. During her unharmonious marriage Enchi determined to concentrate entirely on writing in order to escape an oppressive domestic life.
After 1935 Enchi attempted to write novels instead of dramas, but her novels did not appear in public for a long time. It took nearly twenty years for her to gain public attention as a novelist. In the prewar and war period, she published little. Those years were among the most fateful of her life, for her father died in 1937, she had an operation on her breast in 1938, Teppei Kataoka died in 1944, her house was destroyed by American bombs in 1945, and she developed uterine cancer. She...
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