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When the Emperor Was Divine (Anglais) Broché – 14 octobre 2003


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Extrait

EVACUATION ORDER NO. 19

The sign had appeared overnight. On billboards and trees and the backs of the bus-stop benches. It hung in the window of Woolworth's. It hung by the entrance to the YMCA. It was stapled to the door of the municipal court and nailed, at eye level, to every telephone pole along University Avenue. The woman was returning a book to the library when she saw the sign in a post office window. It was a sunny day in Berkeley in the spring of 1942 and she was wearing new glasses and could see everything clearly for the first time in weeks. She no longer had to squint but she squinted out of habit anyway. She read the sign from top to bottom and then, still squinting, she took out a pen and read the sign from top to bottom again. The print was small and dark. Some of it was tiny. She wrote down a few words on the back of a bank receipt, then turned around and went home and began to pack.

When the overdue notice from the library arrived in the mail nine days later she still had not finished packing. The children had just left for school and boxes and suitcases were scattered across the floor of the house. She tossed the envelope into the nearest suitcase and walked out the door.

Outside the sun was warm and the palm fronds were clacking idly against the side of the house. She pulled on her white silk gloves and began to walk east on Ashby. She crossed California Street and bought several bars of Lux soap and a large jar of face cream at the Rumford Pharmacy. She passed the thrift shop and the boarded-up grocery but saw no one she knew on the sidewalk. At the newsstand on the corner of Grove she bought a copy of the Berkeley Gazette. She scanned the headlines quickly. The Burma Road had been severed and one of the Dionne quintuplets–Yvonne–was still recovering from an ear operation. Sugar rationing would begin on Tuesday. She folded the paper in half but was careful not to let the ink darken her gloves.

At Lundy's Hardware she stopped and looked at the display of victory garden shovels in the window. They were well-made shovels with sturdy metal handles and she thought, for a moment, of buying one–the price was right and she did not like to pass up a bargain. Then she remembered that she already had a shovel at home in the shed. In fact, she had two. She did not need a third. She smoothed down her dress and went into the store.

"Nice glasses," Joe Lundy said the moment she walked through the door.

"You think?" she asked. "I'm not used to them yet." She picked up a hammer and gripped the handle firmly. "Do you have anything bigger?" she asked. Joe Lundy said that what she had in her hand was the biggest hammer he had. She put the hammer back on the rack.

"How's your roof holding out?" he asked her.

"I think the shingles are rotting. It just sprung another leak."

"It's been a wet year."

The woman nodded. "But we've had some nice days." She walked past the venetian blinds and the black- out shades to the back of the store. She picked out two rolls of tape and a ball of twine and brought them back to the register. "Every time it rains I have to set out the bucket," she said. She put down two quarters on the counter.

"Nothing wrong with a bucket," said Joe Lundy. He pushed the quarters back toward her across the counter but he did not look at her. "You can pay me later," he said. Then he began to wipe the side of the register with a rag. There was a dark stain there that would not go away.

"I can pay you now," said the woman.

"Don't worry about it," said Joe Lundy. He reached into his shirt pocket and gave her two caramel candies wrapped in gold foil. "For the children," he said. She slipped the caramels into her purse but left the money. She thanked him for the candy and walked out of the store.

"That's a nice red dress," he called out after her.

She turned around and squinted at him over the top of her glasses. "Thank you," she said. "Thank you, Joe." Then the door slammed behind her and she was alone on the sidewalk and she realized that in all the years she had been going to Joe Lundy's store she had never before called him by his name. Joe. It sounded strange to her. Wrong, almost. But she had said it. She had said it out loud. She wished she had said it earlier.

She wiped her forehead with her handkerchief. The sun was bright and she did not like to sweat in public. She took off her glasses and crossed to the shady side of the street. At the corner of Shattuck she took the streetcar downtown. She got off at Kittredge and went into J. F. Hink's department store and asked the salesman if they had any duffel bags but they did not, they were all sold out. He had sold the last one a half-hour ago. He suggested she try J. C. Penney's but they were sold out of duffel bags there too. They were sold out of duffel bags all over town.

*  * *

when she got home the woman took off her red dress and put on her faded blue one–her housedress. She twisted her hair up into a bun and put on an old pair of comfortable shoes. She had to finish packing. She rolled up the Oriental rug in the living room. She took down the mirrors. She took down the curtains and shades. She carried the tiny bonsai tree out into the yard and set it down on the grass beneath the eaves where it would not get too much shade or too much sun but just the right amount of each. She brought the wind-up Victrola and the Westminster chime clock downstairs to the basement.

Upstairs, in the boy's room, she unpinned the One World One War map of the world from the wall and folded it neatly along the crease lines. She wrapped up his stamp collection and the painted wooden Indian with the long headdress he had won at the Sacramento State Fair. She pulled out the Joe Palooka comic books from under his bed. She emptied the drawers. Some of his clothes–the clothes he would need–she left out for him to put into his suitcase later. She placed his baseball glove on his pillow. The rest of his things she put into boxes and carried into the sunroom.

The door to the girl's room was closed. Above the doorknob was a note that had not been there the day before. It said do not disturb. The woman did not open the door. She went down the stairs and removed the pictures from the walls. There were only three: the painting of Princess Elizabeth that hung in the dining room, the picture of Jesus in the foyer, and in the kitchen, a framed reproduction of Millet's The Gleaners. She placed Jesus and the little Princess together facedown in a box. She made sure to put Jesus on top. She took The Gleaners out of its frame and looked at the picture one last time. She wondered why she had let it hang in the kitchen for so long. It bothered her, the way those peasants were forever bent over above that endless field of wheat. "Look up"' she wanted to say to them. "Look up, look up!" The Gleaners, she decided, would have to go. She set the picture outside with the garbage.

In the living room she emptied all the books from the shelves except Audubon's Birds of America. In the kitchen she emptied the cupboards. She set aside a few things for later that evening. Everything else–the china, the crystal, the set of ivory chopsticks her mother had sent to her fifteen years ago from Kagoshima on her wedding day–she put into boxes. She taped the boxes shut with the tape she had bought from Lundy's Hardware and carried them one by one up the stairs to the sunroom. When she was done she locked the door with two padlocks and sat down on the landing with her dress pushed up above her knees and lit a cigarette. Tomorrow she and the children would be leaving. She did not know where they were going or how long they would be gone or who would be living in their house while they were away. She knew only that tomorrow they had to go.

There were things they could take with them: bedding and linen, forks, spoons, plates, bowls, cups, clothes. These were the words she had written down on the back of the bank receipt. Pets were not allowed. That was what the sign had said.

It was late April. It was the fourth week of the fifth month of the war and the woman, who did not always follow the rules, followed the rules. She gave the cat to the Greers next door. She caught the chicken that had been running wild in the yard since the fall and snapped its neck beneath the handle of a broomstick. She plucked out the feathers and set the carcass into a pan of cold water in the sink.

Revue de presse

“Exceptional. . . . Otsuka skillfully dramatizes a world suddenly foreign. . . . [Her] incantatory, unsentimental prose is the book’s greatest strength.” –The New Yorker

“Spare, incisive. . . . The mood of the novel tensely reflects the protagonists’ emotional state: calm surfaces above, turmoil just beneath.” –Boston Globe

A timely examination of mass hysteria in troubled times. . . . Otsuka combines interesting facts and tragic emotions with a steady, pragmatic hand.”–The Oregonian

“Prose so cool and precise that it’s impossible not to believe what [Otsuka] tells us or to see clearly what she wants us to see. . . . A gem of a book and one of the most vivid history lessons you’ll ever learn.” –USA Today

“With a matter-of-fact brilliance, and a poise as prominent in the protagonist as it is in the writing, When the Emperor Was Divine is a novel about loyalty, about identity, and about being other in America during uncertain times.” –Nathan Englander, author of For the Relief of Unbearable Urges

“Shockingly brilliant. . . . it will make you gasp . . . Undoubtedly one of the most effective, memorable books to deal with the internment crisis . . . The maturity of Otsuka’s. . . prose is astonishing.” — The Bloomsbury Review

“The novel’s voice is as hushed as a whisper. . . . An exquisite debut. . . potent, spare, crystalline.” –O, The Oprah Magazine

“At once delicately poetic and unstintingly unsentimental.” --St. Petersburg Times

“Heartbreaking, bracingly unsentimental. . . .rais[es] the specter of wartime injustice in bone-chilling fashion. . . . The novel’s honesty and matter-of-fact tone in the face of inconceivable injustice are the source of its power. . . . Dazzling.” –Publishers Weekly

“Otsuka . . . demonstrates a breathtaking restraint and delicacy throughout this supple and devastating first novel .” –Booklist

“Spare yet poignant. . . . clear, elegant prose.” –Library Journal

“Her voice never falters, equally adept at capturing horrific necessity and accidental beauty. Her unsung prisoners of war contend with multiple front lines, and enemies who wear the faces of neighbors and friends. It only takes a few pages to join their cause, but by the time you finish this exceptional debut, you will recognize that their struggle has always been yours.” –Colson Whitehead, author of John Henry Days

“Heartbreaking. . . . A crystalline account.” –The Seattle Post-Intelligencer


Détails sur le produit

  • Broché: 160 pages
  • Editeur : Anchor; Édition : Reprint (14 octobre 2003)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0385721811
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385721813
  • Dimensions du produit: 13,2 x 1,1 x 20,1 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.2 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (4 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 27.773 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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Format: Broché Achat vérifié
C'est la suite de son roman "Picture wifes" (que j'avais lu en français). C'est une partie de l'histoire de l'Amérique et la 2e guerre mondiale que j'ignorais (et que beaucoup ignorent, les Japonais étant tellement discret). Les deux romans sont écrit d'un style bref et concis, comme si les protagonistes écrivaient leur propre journal. A lire absolument!
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Format: Relié
Ce livre retrace le sort qu'ont connu les citoyens américains d'origine japonaise à travers le destin d'une famille (histoire vraie). En dehors de l'intérêt historique, on peut voir les conséquences à long terme de cet internement arbitraire sur les différents membres de la famille.
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Format: Broché
A près avoir lu The Buddha in the attic, j'ai eu envie de connaître davantage l'histoire du triste sort subi par ces Japonais venus, pleins d'espoir, trouver du travail sur la côte ouest des Etats Unis et qui n'en sont jamais repartis
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Par Schermesser le 20 août 2014
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Dévoile un aspect de l'Histoire méconnu à travers le récit d'une famille. Écrit efficacement et simplement, avec une certaine pudeur.
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110 internautes sur 121 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Stunning In Its Simplicity 19 janvier 2003
Par Louis N. Gruber - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
When people--any people--cease to be seen as individuals, they become "them"--the faceless, nameless "enemy." In this exquisite short novel, a shameful episode of American history is re-examined--the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. It was a time when everyone of Japanese descent was somehow "them"--the enemy. And in becoming "the enemy" they lose much of what it means to be human.
The tiny family--mother, son, daughter--is devastated when their father is suddenly taken away in his robe and slippers, suspected of who knows what. A few months later they are forced to give up everything and move to a dusty prison camp somewhere in Utah.
After more than three years they return home, changed and traumatized. Eventually they are reunited with the father, but he too is changed, a broken shadow of himself.
The story is told in eloquent, simple, spare prose, in small but telling details, in the fragmented but powerful insights of the two children and their mother. It is never over-stated, never sentimental, yet it will bring you to tears.
The book concludes with a short but powerful epilogue, a fierce and powerful essay on what it means for anyone to be "them," to be "the enemy."
This is a painful book, but it is important for you to read it. I cannot recommend it too strongly. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.
206 internautes sur 239 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
sansei1 18 septembre 2006
Par Barbara H. Lulu - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
I had mixed feelings about this book before I read it. The title is NOT how most JA immigrants felt about the emperor of Japan. There was generally no love lost. Most, like my grandparents, left because of poverty, conscription, alienation, and to look for better oportunites in America, lika a lot of other immigrants. While reading the book, I give her kudos for her ability to describe events visually well. BUT...there are many problems with this book. There is this sterility in the manner in which she describes events.She can manage to paint a visually stunning picture with her words but there is no substance. Her characters seem as if she studied them from a textbook. A Nisei (second generation) young girl would NEVER talk in the manner in which she writes, to an elder!!! Its almost like she had Dakota Fanning in mind for this character. And the father character, an Issei (first generation)....Issei's used to swallow their pain. The Issei are known for their stoic strength and "gaman", quiet strength amidst adversity. I felt isulted by his mental confession in the book. I went to see the author at a local library and she did confess she NEVER interviewed ANY living internees. My god...they are dying off and she doesn't interview them? She said she wanted a more "pure" viewpoint. She said she did study books for her historical references. Indeed, there are some references in the book which I'm not quite sure if it is plagiarism, like in the description of the flies bothering her characters and then when they put up screens, it gets better. See Mine Okubo's book Citizen 13660, which Otsuka does reference. That scene is in there. I can see where the sterility feeling I got came from---if she only studied books and didn't get a feel for the emotional aspect that is buried in a lot of interness...she only did her homework half-baked.There are SO many heartbreaking stories that are dying and being buried with the internees. She confessed she didn't really listen when her parents and grandparents talked about it and they would shut up when she'd come around. But she said she didn't really ask them either, only marginally later. What IS her interest here? A book bestseller to be touted among the Asian community? I didn't really get from her interviewed she cared deeply for what happened, it was just a good base for her story. My parents told me everything and I am grateful. I am insulted by this book. It is like looking at a painting of a pretty scene but the artist who created didn't really care about anything but rendering a pretty scene. I was fairly disgusted by the time I left the interview from the library.

She's a grad of Columbia? She needs to study more. This is a great book if you think Snow Falling on Cedars is wonderful.
38 internautes sur 42 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Don't miss out 30 septembre 2002
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
The day I received this book I read the first few pages, canceled my plans for the night and allowed myself to be taken by this book without any effort. "When the Emperor Was Divine" follows a Japanese-American family in 1942 as they are taken from their California stucco house to an internment camp in Topaz, Utah. Having months earlier watched their father be sent away to a camp ''for dangerous enemy aliens'', the mother, daughter and son are left to speculate their own fate. Plunged in to a world where mess halls are to be called "dining halls" evacuees are to be called "residents" and the word freedom exists only outside the barbed-wire fence, each spends their time fantasizing over the reunion with their father. Although you never learn the names of any of the main characters you learn their grief and you will value the impact of the line "now he'll always be thirsty" and how it took my breath away. Even if up until that point you are not as convinced, the last three pages alone are enough to guarantee that you will be suggesting this book as soon as you close it.
50 internautes sur 59 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Lovely, Lyrical, Haunting 12 avril 2003
Par "racantwell" - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I plucked this book off the shelf at the library yesterday, flipped it open to see if I liked the writing style and almost forgot to pick the kids up at school half an hour later because I had completely fallen into the world of this novella and lost track of time.
When the Emperor was Divine is the literary equivallent of ikebana -- elegant in its spareness and revealing great beauty beneath the simple balance of form and substance. Author Julie Otsuka doesn't miss a step in this compelling, disturbing story of a Japanese American family torn apart, interred in separate camps; mother, daughter and son in one, father in another.
Confused, helpless, longing for each other, yearning for the comforts of home, hearth, and happier days, the family spends three and a half years waiting. Waiting for release, waiting to be reunited, waiting for a tulip to grow in an old tin can. Ms. Otsuka doesn't give us the details -- she walks us right into the bodies, hearts and minds of each of her characters and makes us live with them. And in the end of the endless waiting we return with them to the scattered remains of a life that is less than what is normal, necessary or desirable. My heart broke a hundred times in the few short hours it took to read this slim book.
It is particularly compelling to think of the men interred in Cuba right now and wonder if a future generation will tell their story as poignantly. I recommend this book for the quality of the writing and the timliness of the story.
21 internautes sur 23 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Sterile 9 décembre 2011
Par Bookish in Iowa - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
I wanted and expected to like this book, although I am leery of the superlatives you always find on book jackets: "incantatory prose" and "stunning debut"--that sort of thing. I find the praise undeserved. Otsuka seems to be trying to use prose in a spare, poetic style, which I see other readers do find moving. I am left cold, and it's only when I read the reviews by other Japanese Americans that I think I understand why. Otsuka has not done her homework. The prose is simple, but the images are not the least bit evocative for me. In an early scene when the mother goes out and has to kill the dog, I thought I was in for a good book. It turns out that was the only scene that stirred me--not because of its violence so much as for what goes unsaid, the emotional currents beneath the spare lines. It's an effect she tries for elsewhere, but I never feel anything for the characters throughout the rest of the book. Is that because they don't have names? I don't think so. It's because Otsuka doesn't take us below their surface. She is trying to be suggestive, evocative, and stark. But the lines have no resonance. It's difficult to render depth of emotion in people who are required to keep themselves contained due to their situation, but that's where skill comes in. Think of the great actors whose faces reveal everything their character is feeling vs. Hollywood celebrities who are in the movie because their face is pretty but not expressive. In the same way, some writers can suggest those depths with a well-chosen detail or image. Otsuka is not one of them.

Although I don't think that the nameless characters are an automatic drawback, I do wonder why in both of this author's novels, we are offered nameless characters. Keep them nameless if you like, but bring them alive as individuals. It is very easy for liberal, middle-class readers to tell themselves they now understand what the internment was like for Japanese Americans because of this book. But in fact the book makes it possible for us to "digest" the historical fact of the internment in a way that keeps intact the attitudes that led to the internment to begin with (attitudes similar to the ones that lead to our views of undocumented immigrants from around the globe). We are performing what critic Stephen Yao calls a "compensatory act" in reading Otsuko's somber tale of woe. (The attitude that reading about injustice done to minorities is a way of compensating for our liberal guilt). We believe Otsuko must be "right" about how it all was since she has the "authority" of being Japanese American (although she did only book research according to the reviewer mentioned above). In return, we are allowed to believe that these sterile portraits speak for the internment experience even as they satisfy our stereotypical understanding of Asians as quiet, somber, uncomplaining people. For a much fuller portrait of a family during internment read "Farewell to Manzanar" by Jeanne Houston. Those characters are truly alive, and Houston is not trying to be "incantatory" with her prose. It's clear, readable, and heartfelt. Otsuka does us a disservice with characters who seem to be living behind glass.
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