Clouds above the Hill
A Historical Novel of the Russo-Japanese War, Volume 2
Edited by Phyllis Birnbaum
Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter, Andrew Cobbing, Paul McCarthy
Routledge – 2013 – 404 pages
Clouds above the Hill is one of the best-selling novels ever in Japan, and is now translated into English for the first time. An epic portrait of Japan in crisis, it combines graphic military history and highly readable fiction to depict an aspiring nation modernizing at breakneck speed. Best-selling author Shiba Ryotaro devoted an entire decade of his life to this extraordinary blockbuster, which features Japan's emerging onto the world stage by the early years of the twentieth century.
In Volume II, Meiji Japan is on a collision course with Russia, as Russian troops stationed in Manchuria ignore repeated calls to withdraw. Admiral Togo leads a blockade and subsequent skirmish at the strategically vital and heavily fortified Port Arthur, whilst Yoshifuru’s cavalry in Manchuria maneuvers for position as it approaches the Russian Army lines. The two armies clash at the battle of Liaoyang, where Japan seals a victory which shocks the world.
Anyone curious as to how the "tiny, rising nation of Japan" was able to fight so fiercely for its survival should look no further. Clouds above the Hill is an exciting, human portrait of a modernizing nation that goes to war and thereby stakes its very existence on a desperate bid for glory in East Asia.
"I'm stunned at the sheer level of detail that has gone into this volume in particular… It's not just the results of the decisions made and how they ultimately affected the war's outcome that are included, but the discussions that led to those decisions being made and how the people who had to act upon those decisions felt about it. Considering the author is Japanese and not from a neutral nation, he does a spectacular job of following the war from both sides, in all spheres of combat and at all levels in the chain of command, from Emperor and Tsar to common soldier… With the war being fought in fairly sharp bursts, this means that the pace of the story is kept very high. Once again, Shiba crosses genres perfectly, with the story having the pace of a thriller, but the detail of a history text. What makes the story even better is that it's not told from one perspective, as it covers the psychological impact of the war on both commanders and soldiers, again on both sides." - Iain Wear, The Bookbag, January 2013.
"Shiba Ryotaro is Japan’s best-loved author, and Clouds above the Hill is his most popular and influential work. In it he celebrates the transformative spirit of Meiji Japan and examines Japan’s unexpected victory in the Russo-Japanese War, providing a thoughtful and thought-provoking perspective on those dramatic times and the people at their center. This distinguished translation of a modern classic is a landmark event." - Donald Keene, University Professor Emeritus, Columbia University, USA.
"Shiba Ryotaro wrote that from the Meiji Restoration of 1868 through the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, Japan transformed its premodern "brown sugar" society into a modern "white sugar" one, eagerly scooping up crystals of the new substance in the drive to create society anew. During the Pacific War, by contrast, the nation’s leaders merely went through empty motions, and Japan collapsed. This book looks back on that earlier era through the lens of the later tragedy, depicting the struggles and growth to maturity of Japan’s young men." -Tanaka Naoki, former Member of the Japanese Parliament and President of the Center for International Public Policy Studies, Japan.
"When the Russo-Japanese War was over and Japan had won, the commanding generals from both sides came together face to face at Suishiying. They paid honor to each other’s bravery and expressed mutual condolences, and before parting they shook hands. I have visited that very place, which seems to me less the site of a Japanese victory than a monument to the souls of fallen soldiers on both sides. I have no doubt that Clouds above the Hills was also written to honor those souls." -Anno Mitsumasa, author and illustrator of children’s books in Japan.
The translation will be published in four volumes. There will be maps with details of campaigns and battles; each volume is approx. 150,000 words.
Shiba Ryotaro (1923-1996) is one of Japan's best-known writers, famous for his direct tone and unflinching depictions of war. He was drafted into the Japanese Army, served in the Second World War and subsequently worked for the newspaper Sankei Shimbun. He is most famous for his numerous works of historical fiction.
Translated by Paul McCarthy, Andrew Cobbing, and Juliet Winters Carpenter
Edited by Phyllis Birnbaum