Ichiyo Higuchi (1872-96) revolutionized the world of Japanese literature in the months before her death at the age of 24. Hailed as a true poet and lauded for her humanistic perspective in depicting the seedy underside of the Meiji Restoration, the test of time puts paid to her lasting influence.

Only one book in English gives a taste of Higuchi’s brilliance. Translated by Robert Lyons Danly, “In the Shade of Spring Leaves” won the 1982 National Book Award for translation. Danly’s book begins with a thorough, lively biography peppered with extracts from Higuchi’s personal diaries that vividly showcase a vibrant mind. That the diaries themselves are not yet translated in full remains a tragedy; in Japan they are revered literature in their own right. The latter half of Danly’s book collects nine of her best stories complemented by meticulous literary analysis.

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