Fumio Niwa died in 2005. In 1947, he was one of the Japan’s most prolific authors (more than 500 Books) unfortunately not all translated.
In 1947, The Hateful Age was a fierce and unprecedented attack of the traditional Japanese veneration of senior citizens. This novel paints a frank picture of senility in all its physical and sociological aspects and makes everybody think about aging and becoming an embarrassment, a discomfort and a permanent hassle for the family who takes care of us more by obligation than love.
Pitch: Umejo, eighty-six years choose his granddaughter Senko to take care of her during her old age. But after three months, Senko and her husband send “the old owl” to stay with the other daughter Sachiko, who lives in the mountains, in a small village where electricity has not even yet been repaired since the war. Every day is an ordeal for the married couple that tries their best to respond to the filial duty. Umejo pinches objects in the house, scream, ask the neighbors to save her from the house where nobody feeds her. Of course, Umejo lies, without malice, without nastiness, its only flaw is to be useless and senile.
“ Really, Granny, you are cancer. Because of you alone, we sisters cannot have a good relationship. By the way, even you wouldn’t have thought that your only role would be to poison our relationship by letting yourself live that long.”
That short and realistic novel focuses on a seldom subject. In life, we all face one day or another this problem, whatever our culture. What to do with the old family members?Keep them home to respond to a social decency or place them in nursing homes?Above all, these questions relate us to one interrogation: who will take care of us when we become grumpy, senile and useless? Ironically, Niwa himself in his old age suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. His generosity towards his fellow writers was remarkable. He organised a health insurance system for them and bought land for a writers’ graveyard. But, as his health degenerated, he became more and more unpredictable. When his wife started accusing him of past love affairs, he tried to strangle her… When Niwa was 100, the old age he had so vigorously despised took its inevitable revenge.
The Hateful Age – Iyagarase No Nenrei – Niwa Fumio – Publish by Hara Shobo