Forgetting and Surviving

Tash Aw reviews Asako Serizawa’s Inheritors in The New York Review of Books. This collection of interlinked short stories asks if it is possible to excavate collective trauma and whether the people and countries concerned prefer their pain to remain buried.

“I started reading Inheritors, Asako Serizawa’s collection of interlinked short stories—which spans five generations but always comes back to Japan’s wartime trauma—a few days after the annual Nagasaki Peace Ceremony last year and, it turned out, the day before four Japanese cabinet ministers made an official visit to Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which honors not only Japan’s war dead but also officials convicted of war crimes. The timing of my reading was coincidental: for most Southeast Asians of my generation, born in the 1970s and after, Japan’s actions in World War II are something we remember only from school textbooks and have little bearing on our daily lives. The same cannot be said for my parents’ generation: each year in the middle of August, my uncle dutifully sends articles from Chinese-language news channels to the family WhatsApp group, reminding us again of the enduring tragedy of Japan’s wartime involvement.”

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