Mizumura, Minae 1951-

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MIZUMURA, Minae 1951-


Female. Name is pronounced "Mee-na-eh Mee-zuh-muh-rah;" born 1951, in Japan; immigrated to the United States, 1963; returned to Japan, 1984. Education: Yale University, undergraduate degree, 1976, M.Ph., 1984.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, Shinchosha Publishers, Code 162-8711, 71 Yarai-cho Shinjuku Tokyo, Japan.


Writer. Taught in the United States at Princeton University, University of Michigan, and Stanford University.


Japan Foundation fellowship, 1983; Noma Shinjin Sho, 1995, for Shishosetsu: From Left to Right; Yomiuri literature prize, 2003, for Honkaku Shosetsu.


Zoku Meian (title means "Light and Darkness Continued"), Chikuma Shobo (Tokyo, Japan), 1990.

Shishosetsu: From Left to Right (title means "A Personal Novel: From Left to Right"), Shinchosha (Tokyo, Japan), 1995.

(Couthor) Tegami, Shiori wo Soete (collection of newspaper articles), c. 1998.

Honkaku Shosetsu, (title means "An Orthodox Novel"), Shinchosha (Tokyo, Japan), 2002.


Minae Mizumura was born in Japan and immigrated with her family to the United States when she was twelve years old. Educated at Yale University, she taught as a visiting professor at several schools, then returned to Japan in 1984 to devote herself to her writing.

Mizumura's first novel, Zoku Meian, is actually a continuation of Meian, the unfinished story by Japanese novelist Natsume Soseki, who in his decline was unable to complete the novel being serialized in his newspaper. The story involves a newly married couple, the socialite who helped to arrange their marriage, another young woman who might have had an impact on the coming wedding if the author had not abandoned the novel, and a rogue friend of the groom.

Edward Seidensticker reviewed Mizumura's book in the Times Literary Supplement, writing that the character of the groom's friend "is the most interesting … the only one capable of wit—wit of a black demonic, twisted kind, but nevertheless effective, and the scenes in which he appears are compelling. The chief reason for the slowness of the action is that there is so much involuted psychological probing; but even so, many questions remain unanswered." Seidensticker noted that Mizumura does not state whether she intends her book to be a sequel or the ending as she imagines Soseki would have written it.

The original book by Soseki was comprised of 188 series installments, and Mizumura added another hundred. Seidensticker commented that at 188, the book was already longer than anything else Soseki had written and added that "in his own final installments, there are signs that the tempo is quickening, and it seems likely that at this point he meant to bring the book to a speedy end." Seidensticker also felt that Mizumura makes no attempt to further develop the characters, but did say that she "is easier to read than Soseki. She tells a better story, her episodes tend to be briefer, her dialogue brisker."

Mizumura, who studied French literature in the United States, calls on that language, as well as on Japanese and English in her novel Shishosetsu: From Left to Right. The novel is a fictionalized memoir in which the heroine is also named Minae, also moved to the United States at age twelve, and struggles with her identity. Minae studies French at a university that seems to be Yale. The book is trilingual, and the print is horizontal.

Honkaku Shosetsu is a retelling of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights set in contemporary Japan. The character of Heathcliff is born to a Japanese woman who has been raped by a Chinese thug. The female Japanese narrator is visited by a mysterious Japanese man while she is teaching in California, a visit that forces her to examine her cultural and literary heritage and literary genres in Japan.



Times Literary Supplement, September 27, 1991, Edward Seidensticker, review of Zoku Meian, p. 10.*