Like all artists, novelists find the impetus to begin in various places. Some inspire themselves with a formal challenge. Georges Perec, for example, asked himself what would happen if he tried to write a novel entirely bereft of the letter "e." Others, in their doodling and false starts, stumble upon a sentence that compels them to go on, perhaps because that sentence seems to contain, in its 10 or 20 words, the novel that must be written. The opening of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" — "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife" — is exemplary in this regard. Most commonly, though, novels find their genesis in other novels: Books are built upon books. In some cases the books upon which other books are built are difficult for the undiscerning reader to see: the Wilkie Collins in Franz Kafka, for example. In other cases, the source texts are obvious and acknowledged. Minae Mizumura's "A True Novel" is one of those.

A True Novel, Minae Mizumura, Translated by Juliet WInters Carpenter, OTHER PRESS

"A True Novel" is, in part, an updating and relocating of Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights" to postwar Japan. That sounds like it could be quite awful, but Mizumura, avoids the trap of slavishly following Bronte, and in so doing makes her novel something different — not a copy of Bronte's classic, but a commentary on it, and also on themes, most notably passion and social class, that also interested Bronte, but do not, of course, belong to her.