The Wild Geese (1911-1913) is set in the 1880s Tokyo. The cast of characters in the book include the narrator, a medical student and his colleague, Okada; a poor old man and his beautiful daughter, Otama; and Suezo, a usurer and his wife. Otama, due to poverty and a desire to secure the future of her aging father, chooses to accept Suezo’s proposal to be his mistress. In the beginning, Otama does not mind the arrangement. Over time, however, she grows resentful and suspicious of Suezo. It is during this period that Okada, the medical student, encounters Otama during one of his daily walks. Mori sets up Otama as the “woman in the window” who desires to be rescued by her knight in shining armor. However, realism dictates otherwise by the end of the novel.
An astonishing amount of detail is packed into this slim novel of 119 pages. The characters are well developed. There is fair amount of introspection and an emphasis on the emotions of the characters. A lot is stated though the reader has to infer or read between the lines. The book is set during the Meiji Period, a period of great change and modernization in Japan. And the author does a really good job describing the society as it grapples with the adoption of Western culture against the preservation of Japanese culture. The book is translated from the Japanese by Kingo Ochiai and Sanford Goldstein.
Ogai Mori (1862 – 1922) was a prominent Japanese author. His writing is compassionate and at all times he is sensitive to the ordeals of the characters in the book. The Wild Geese offers no solutions nor is it a simple story about unrequited love. It is a masterful exploration of the one of the many dilemmas that people are often faced with.