'Exceptional and erotic' Literary Review
Arthur Golden was born and brought up in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He is a 1978 graduate of Harvard College with a degree in art history, specialising in Japanese art. In 1980 he earned an MA in Japanese history from Columbia where he also learned Mandarin Chinese. In 1988 he received an MA in English from Boston. He has lived and worked in Japan, but now lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, with his wife and children.
Golden puts to good use his studies of Japanese culture at Harvard and Columbia in this story of Sayuri, sold into slavery at a geisha house in 1929, who finds that she's on her own when World War II starts. The 75,000-copy first printing says a lot about the publisher's commitment to this debut novel.
The life of a famous Kyoto geisha‘from her painful apprenticeship in the early 1930s through the years of her prime and her later career in Manhattan‘is rendered with stunning clarity in this fully imagined first novel. Golden effortlessly spins the tale as the dictated autobiography of quick-witted Chiyo Sakamoto, the daughter of a poor fisherman, who attains the pinnacle of geisha success. In the process, Golden evokes the spectrum of traditional Japanese society. Sold as a child by her financially desperate father, Chiyo is placed in a house for geisha as the personal maid to Hatsumomo, one of Kyoto's most sought-after geisha. There she is trained in the arts of dance, singing and the tea ceremony. Hatsumomo, however, threatened by Chiyo's beauty, treats her with unrestrained cruelty. Chiyo's position is one of indentured servitude: she may not leave until she has repaid all of her living expenses and even her original purchase cost. After many vicissitudes, Chiyo is transformed into a celebrated geisha called Sayuri; many men offer to be her danna (high-paying boyfriend), an honor that‘defying Western expectations‘does not include sex unless the geisha chooses so. Despite legions of admirers however, Chiyo/Sayuri secretly pines for an unattainable man. Golden splendidly renders the superficiality of geisha culture: the word geisha translates to "artist" or "artisan," and the women spend hours painting on porcelain make-up, caring for their beautifully hued silk kimonos and honing clever conversational skills. Counter to everything geisha are taught, Chiyo learns that her own feelings do matter, and honoring them results in a well-earned, intelligent and satisfyingly happy ending. Foreign rights sold in 11 countries; Random House audio; author tour. (Oct.)
"'Intimate and brutal, written in cool, lucid prose it is a novel
whose psychological empathy and historical truths are outstanding'
Mail on Sunday"
"Endless and fascinating-a narrative that is both gripping and beautifully paced-a wonderful read" * The Observer *
"'This is a high-wire act. Rarely has a world so closed and foreign been evoked with such natural assurance' New Yorker"
"'Memoirs of a Geisha ' is the sort of novel that novel-lovers yearn for, which is to say, so convincing that while reading it you become transported to another time, another place, and feel you're listening and seeing with someone else's ears and eyes' Margaret Forster"