Twelve Views from the Distance
by Mutsuo Takahashi
Translated by Jeffrey Angles
University of Minnesota Press. 243 pages, $19.95
THIS THOUGHTFUL, unusual book is an absorbing memoir of gay Japanese poet Mutsuo Takahashi’s childhood years. It originally appeared in serialized form in 1969 and was published as a book the following year. In the twelve chapters, Takahashi looks over formative moments of his youth and examines the ripples they have had in his later life.
Covering the first fifteen years of his life, from 1937 to 1952, he tells of his father’s premature death by pneumo-nia, brought on by overwork, and the remaining family’s return to his paternal grandparents’ home in Nogota. Shortly afterwards, his older sister passed away from meningitis. Takahashi recalls with striking clarity several incidents in his grandparents’ home, including the time when he was beaten for entering his uncle’s room, with the punishment continuing because he wouldn’t stop crying.