The Girl Who Played Go: A Novel
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As the Japanese military invades 1930s Manchuria, a young girl approaches her own sexual coming of age. Drawn into a complex triangle with two boys, she distracts herself from the onslaught of adulthood by playing the game of go with strangers in a public square--and yet the force of desire, like the occupation, proves inevitable. Unbeknownst to the girl who plays go, her most worthy and frequent opponent is a Japanese soldier in disguise. Captivated by her beauty as much as by her bold, unpredictable approach to the strategy game, the soldier finds his loyalties challenged. Is there room on the path to war for that most revolutionary of acts: falling in love?
the party. “Ladies, good evening . . .” The footmen at the bottom of the stairs greet us with effusive little bows. One of them goes ahead of us, inviting us to enter through a red lacquered gateway, and we walk across three successive courtyards. As Moon Pearl doesn’t want her husband to see her, we have arrived after dark. We are shown into a huge garden where about a hundred tables are dotted around under the trees and lit with good-luck lanterns to wish the mayor a long life. An orchestra
the three kilometers round the barracks. Our rhythmic footfalls send up clouds of dust and our patriotic songs ring out between the earth and the sky. Our collective enthusiasm warms the heart and dissipates night-mares. Last night I was wandering through the ruins left by the earthquake. The sky was black with smoke. My ears had become so accustomed to the sobbing that they could no longer distinguish between people crying and the buzz of insects. I was exhausted and would have liked to stop
fixed to their bayonets. I can make out their cruel young faces under their helmets. Short and stocky with deep slits for eyes and squashed noses above their mustaches, they are the very incarnation of their insular people who, according to legend, are descended from our own. I find them disgusting. At eleven o’clock I decide to go to school. Huong tells me that our literature teacher noticed I wasn’t there and made a note of my name. “Why are you late?” she asks, and I tell her what has
clouds of flies spiraling around them. “Hello-o,” Huong starts to call, “Doctor Huang Pu.” A disheveled woman appears on the doorstep and eyes us with contempt. “Over there, at the end on the right,” she says. On the door we find a sign written in faded ink: DOCTOR FAMED OVER THE FOUR SEAS FOR HIS HEAVENLY GIFT FOR BRINGING BACK THE SPRINGTIME OF YOUR LIFE. SPECIALIST IN CHANCRE, SYPHILIS AND GONORRHEA. We knock at the door and a woman with permed hair and a face ravaged by makeup
orders them. “You’ll each have a turn!” “You idiot!” I say, throwing myself at the Lieutenant. He turns to me furiously, but when he sees my pistol aimed at his forehead he starts to laugh good-naturedly. “Okay,” he says, “you’d better have her first. After all, you found her.” I say nothing. Thinking he understands why, he whispers, “It’s the first time, isn’t it? If you don’t want to do it in public, look, go over to the temple. I’ll keep watch by the door.” Hayashi takes me over to the