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Table of Contents

Introduction 1: Intermission 2: A Real Gem 3: Dayflowers 4: Welcoming Fires 5: A Dream in the Daylight 6: The Actor's Seal 7: Afterglow 8: Crimes in Bed 9: The Autumn Review 10: Box Seat 11: The Kikuobana 12: Rain on an Autumn Night 13: The Road Home 14: Asakusa 15: At the Gishun 16: Opening Day (I) 17: Opening Day (II) 18: Yesterday and Today 19: Yasuna 20: The Morning Bath 21: Turmoil 22: One Thing or Another

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Komayo is a former geisha who, upon the death of her husband, returns to the "world of flower and willow" to escape poverty. A chance encounter with an old patron, Yoshioka, leads to a potentially profitable relationship: Yoshioka believes Komayo can restore his lost innocence; Komayo uses Yoshioka's patronage to compete in elaborate music and dance performances. As Komayo considers Yoshioka's offer, she falls in love with Segawa, a young actor who promises to turn the talented geisha into the finest dancer in the Shimbashi quarter. Komayo is eager to become the lead performer among her peers. Her ambition even tempts her to assume a third patron known as the "Sea Monster," a repellent but wealthy antiques dealer. As she grows to realize a glittering career, Komayo becomes the target of her three lovers' bitter rivalry, which leaves her both thrilled and exhausted, brutalized and redeemed. Nagai Kafu's captivating tale moves from the intimate corners of the geisha house to the back rooms of assignation, from the dressing areas of the great kabuki theaters to the lonely country villa of a theater critic and connoisseur of Shimbashi women, detailing one woman's absorbing quest to find fame, affection, and financial security.

About the Author

Nagai Kafu (1879-1959) was a Japanese novelist whose translated works include Autumn Wind and Other Stories, American Stories, and During the Rains and Flowers in the Shades: Two Novellas. Stephen Snyder teaches Japanese language and literature at Middlebury College. He is the author of Fictions of Desire: Narrative Form in the Novels of Nagai Kafu and coeditor of Oe and Beyond: Studies in Contemporary Japanese Literature.


Portraits of Japanese geisha most often present these women either as tragic victims of oppressive institutions catering to male sexual desire or as sexually empowered entrepreneurs navigating a harsh reality. In Rivalry: A Geisha's Tale, Nagai Kafu introduces us to an altogether different geisha. Because Komayo's story is not offered as an allegory for a woman's place in a man's world, she emerges as a vivid, complex character fiercely resistant to narrow-minded moralizing and simplistic glorification. Her tale pulls readers into a far more compelling world--that of messy, inconsistent, and irreconcilable human attitudes toward love, sex, power, and performance. -- James Dorsey, Dartmouth College Nagai Kafu's novel is powerfully observed, exposing the tension between the elegant surface of the geisha districts and the sexual hierarchy that unfolds behind closed doors between the geisha and their patrons. Stephen Snyder's sensitive and smooth translation draws the reader into a sometimes outrageous, sometimes alluring world. An important corrective to the romanticized and exoticizing Hollywood versions of the geisha experience. -- Ann Sherif, Oberlin College Now we have a complete translation of Rivalry, Nagai Kafu's novel about the couplings and calculations in the world of geisha. The inclusion of the sexually explicit scenes left out in the prior translation makes this version funnier and infinitely tougher. Komayo's distress in the final chapters can only be comprehended if we know the full demands she faces as a geisha. -- Ken K. Ito, University of Michigan An awesomely economical and incisive writer, Nagai packs this short novel with incident and astonishingly thorough characterizations. Booklist (starred review) This new translation by Snyder... successfully transforms Nagai's Taisho-era Japanese into flowing modern English. Library Journal Snyder is to be thanked both for translating this half-forgotten novel... and for doing it so compellingly. -- Bradley Winterton Taipei Times

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