The Cake Tree in the Ruins – Akiyuki Nosaka

When I’m asked what the saddest movie I’ve ever seen is, I always answer that it’s a tie between ‘Dear Zachary’ (2008) and ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ (1988). Both films reduced me to a heartbroken, blubbering mess and they continue to haunt me, years later. I recently discovered that Grave of the Fireflies was based on a novel written by Japanese author, Akiyuki Nosaka. On the hunt for an English translation of that work – there isn’t one – I came across Nosaka’s The Cake Tree In The Ruins trans. Ginny Tapley Takemori. It’s a collection of short stories that take place on August 15, 1945, the day Japan surrendered to the Allies. The text is a loud keening. Absent, however, is a sense of despair – there’s a stoicism to the writing. Twelve stories that could be read to children, mostly about children, and they left me gutted. This book is an eloquent reminder of the stupidity of humanity; the bombs fell silent and children were left to clean up the wreckage. -K

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