Ukigumo (Floating Clouds) (FUTABATEI Shimei) (浮雲 (二葉亭四迷))

"Ukigumo (Floating Clouds)" is a long novel by FUTABATEI Shimei. Its tsunogaki (subtitle) is "Shinpen" (new version). This novel was published from 1887 to 1889. The first and second chapter was published from Kinkodo while the third chapter was published on a literary magazine "Miyako no hana."

The story was centered on three characters; the main character Bunzo, his female cousin Osei, and his friend Honda. It was Shimei's representative work written in a colloquial style that declared the beginning of the modern Japanese novel. Dissatisfied with Shoyo TSUBOUCHI's "Essence of Novels," Shimei wrote this novel in rivalry with "Tosei shosei katagi" (The Character of Modern Students). At first this novel was published in the name of Yuzo TSUBOUCHI, the real name of Shoyo, who received half of the royalties as reward.

Shimei, however, was not satisfied with the quality of the novel that kept him away from writing any novel for about twenty years.

Story line
Bunzo UTSUMI was a stubborn man. He lost his job at a public office although he didn't made any particular blunder, and his pride couldn't allow him to ask his former superior for reinstatement and left him in agony. His friend Noboru HONDA, on the other hand, was shrewed man and making his way in life, so Bunzo's female cousin Osei who once was interested in Bunzo was now keen on Honda. Osei's mother Omasa was also disgusted with Bunzo, who couldn't believe Osei's change of her mind but could do nothing about it while thinking about Honda and Osei in a self-centered way.

Shimei was under strong influence of Russian literature, so he wrote "Ukigumo" based on coeval Russian author Ivan Goncharov's "Oblomov." The literary style significantly changed between the first chapter and the third chapter. In the third chapter, Bunzo's monologues increased and the narrator stepped back to the background who was in the first chapter telling the story to the readers and notably seized the control of the story. As the story progresses, descriptions in the text and titles of chapters lose the touch of mocking or frivolous nature with elaborative choices of words.

Although this story is said to be incomplete, the third chapter is concluded with "The end". The story is still said to be unfinished because notes for this novel were discovered that seemed to be a plot of the sequel, so no one knows whether Futabatei regarded "Ukigumo" as unfinished or not.

[Original Japanese]