The Ring in Meiji : A Novel by William Butler
New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1965. First Edition; First Printing. Hardcover. 464 pages ; 25 cm. $6.95 dust jacket with minimal wear. Pages are clean and unmarked. Binding is firm.
THE RING IN MEIJI
by WILLIAM BUTLER
An epic novel of nineteenth-century Japan, THE RING IN MEIJI chronicles the period of the Meiji restoration during the years in which the culture and customs of Western civilization began to come into strong, and sometimes bloody, conflict with Japan's tradition of feudalism and national isolation.
In this constantly exciting novel, William Butler centers on the adventures of a small group of Europeans pursuing their fortune in medieval Japan. He sets their story against an impressively drawn canvas of the violent enmity between the Japanese—guarding their ancient traditions of honor through bloodshed and class segregation—and the materialistic Western settlers seeking ruthlessly to exploit the country.
Ken, a waif from San Francisco, was befriended by an adventurer. The victims of violence, they are stranded in Japan, where they settle and prosper. Matate, reared according to the strict Samurai precepts, is sickened by his brother Kahei's brutal massacre of a group of foreigners and finds an affinity with the Western merchants. Kahei, who has become a leading militarist and national hero, traces his brother; he considers Matate's defection treasonable and sets out to murder him. This feud results in a tense drama of intrigue and violence involving many people.
Combining a thorough knowledge of Japanese history and customs, a mastery of style and poetic insight, William Butler has created a variety of unforgettable characters, and a penetrating chronicle of an important era in Oriental history.
THE RING IN MEIJI, William Butler's first novel to be published in his native America, heralds the arrival of a new major novelist on our literary scene.
From the English reviews of THE RING IN MEIJI:
"The Ring in Meiji is a long, thorough, and very well written historical novel telling how Japan went through its great crisis of change from ancient to modern ways a century ago.
"The author takes us through this epic period with a scholarly sense of the nuances of each incident. His style is admirably flexible. It's variations of tone and pace help to give an extra character and distinctness to the shifts of the story: an accurate and uncorny saltiness for the sailors, a good period vernacular for the merchants, and a stately heraldic utterance for the doings of the old warlords. Recommended particularly to readers who like a solid book which can be imbibed slowly." — The Guardian
"There are many threads to the story: blood, feuds, political maneuvering, intrigues among the mixed foreign communities....
"The story is kept moving at a brisk pace, and the author has a deep understanding of the obsessive nature of the Japanese. The book is a remarkable feat of sustained imaginative power, and provides further evidence that... Mr. Butler deserves to be recognized as a novelist of distinction." —The Daily Telegraph
"Mr. Butler keeps a firm hand on his numerous characters and sub-plots throughout this essentially melodramatic account of the clash between orient and Occident. It is at its best, naturally enough, when at its grimmest." —The Times
"A mighty novel of the human agonies in Japan's painful birth into the modern world." -The Sun
A native of Oregon, where he was born in 1929, William Butler grew up near San Francisco and considers himself a Californian. He studied music and also worked in radio in Berkeley and New York City. Deciding ultimately to devote his life to writing, he spent a year in Japan where he worked, among other jobs, as a cartoonist for a Tokyo paper and conceived the initial idea for the book that was to become THE RING IN MEIJI.
Before THE RING IN MEIJI was completed, however, Butler was to write and publish four briefer novels in England (none were issued in the United States) and to have a number of stories and poems published in English and American magazines. He also was granted a Saxton Fellowship which enabled him to return to spend further time in Japan writing and researching.
THE RING IN MEIJI was written in Japan's newest city, Kita Kyushu—on the site of Moji Choshu—where Butler taught English at the university. He now lives in Kamakura with his wife and small son.
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