What to Read: Lament in the Night by Shōson Nagahara

Looking for some good reading? Consider Lament in the Night, written by Shōson Nagahara and translated into English for the first time by Andrew Leong, recently published on paperback from Kaya Press.

Originally published in 1925, and touted as a naturalist noir masterpiece, the book is a collection of two dark novellas that reveal the gritty realities in 1920s Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. Here's the publisher's description:

Lament in the Night
by Shōson Nagahara

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 Sakuzo 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.
To read an excerpt from Lament in the Night, head over to the Asian American Writers' Workshop website: Excerpt: Lament in the Night.

Kaya has done a really nice job with this edition. I've got a copy of Lament in the Night sitting on my desk, and I'm looking forward to cracking it open over the holiday break. For more information about the book, and other books from Kaya Press, which specializes in cutting-edge Asian diasporic writers, go here.

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