Portrait of My Father

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Portrait of My Father
Author: Takashi Tsujii
Specifications: ISBN  978-4103407123
645 pages
14.4 x 18.8 cm / 5.8 x 7.5 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Shinchosha Publishing Co., Ltd.
Tokyo, 2004
Awards: Noma Prize for Literature, 2004
Buy now: amazon.co.jp


This novel is based on the lives of the author and Yasujiro Tsutsumi (1889?1964), who rose from humble farming stock to become Speaker of the Diet and founder of the powerful Seibu Saison Group, a conglomerate of railway, real estate and retail interests. Takashi Tsujii, the author, is actually Yasujiro's illegitimate second son. In the novel, Jiro Kusunoki is modeled after Yasujiro and Kyoji Kusunoki after the author; Kyoji is the first-person narrator of what is essentially the story of his father's life. "I'm more than 60 years old and have retired from the firm and all the business associations to which I belonged. I see myself now walking directly toward my father who passed away at the age of 76," says the narrator, who decides to write a biography of his father. Jiro was born the eldest son in a farming family and was five when his father died and his mother left. Raised by his grandparents, he went straight into farming from elementary school and initially endured a string of business failures. Four years past the normal age he managed to get into Waseda University, where he joined the debating and judo clubs and began carving out a new life for himself. By the age of 36 he had been elected to the Diet. At the same time he was building a fortune by clearing and parceling out land for development and designing European-style "garden cities." His sexual appetite was voracious and he fathered countless children. Rebelling against his father's patriarchal attitudes and contempt for women, the narrator abandons his inheritance rights and disavows his father, at the same time continuing to work under him in the family business and making a name for himself as a poet. The book is the culmination of a writing career throughout which the author has relentlessly scrutinized a tumultuous father-son relationship.