Yoshiharu Tsuge’s The Man Without Talent is simultaneously an elegy and a critique of a way of being, but most of all it is an immersive experience not to be forgotten. As in much of his work, Tsuge allows his own experiences to inform the tales he created for The Man Without Talent, and doing so clearly served to amplify the degree of verisimilitude and lifelikeness of the people, places and episodes depicted (and seeimngly, but perhaps ironically, simultaneously provides a commentary on the creator's sense of self worth).
Tsuge dolefully, yet expertly, conjures up a vivid world of misfits and oddballs living on the edge of society in this story-cycle of six linked episodes in the life of the titular protagonist – and Tsuge alter-ego – Sukezo, whose life is haunted by failure and lived on the edge, continually at risk of tumbling over into the abyss. A life of quiet desperation, indeed. Time and again he is pulled back from a figurative, symbolic, or literal fall by the presence of his young son appearing over the horizon, calling out, "Daddy, it’s time to come home."
Ryan Holmberg has done another excellent job of translation, working to find appropriate idioms that can effectively cross both culture and time, and has provided a typically erudite 20 page afterword that works to put everything in context, allowing for a fuller appreciation of this masterwork.
The Swamp collects key pieces from the early years of Tsuge Yoshiharu's career and simultaneously provides an up close and personal look at post-war Japan. These stories hint at the beginnings of the key themes that would occupy Tsuge throughout his three decade long career, and also show a key stage in the development of the formal approach with which he would capture and present it. As readers of the perceptive, informative introduction by Mitsuhiro Asakawa will learn, the stories collected in the pages of The Swamp begin with his very first works for Garo, which mark the beginning of his mature period. Best of all, this 256 page hardcover is just the first book in a series collecting, "The Complete Mature Works of Yoshiharu Tsuge" that Drawn and Quarterly will be publishing over the coming years!
Translated from the Japanese by Ryan Holmberg – natch' – who is also serving as co-editor beside series editior, Mitsuhiro Asakawa.