Set against the backdrop of the Second World War/Sino-Japanese war (1931-1945), the story centres around the fatal love between a married Chinese woman and a young Japanese soldier. However, the fantastic tale is not as simple as its plot suggests. In the forties of the 20th century, one summer day, on the bending shore of the magical, eternal river Yangtze, a woman met a young stranger she falls in love with. But he can’t love her back, and she can’t love him if she would have known why he has come here to find her and what kind of cruel crime the young man has committed…
Butterfly is a modern fairy tale that explores passion beyond all forbidden boundaries and love tested to its limits to defy even death. Taking a stab at sensitive historical, social issues such as the Rape of Nanking, the question arises, what is love? Where is the salvation in all the heartlessness of mankind? Are we able to love, a deed that is so often taken for granted? Perhaps love is neither simple nor always pleasant or even inhuman. In the end the protagonists have to undergo a metamorphosis in order to be reunited again on the bank of the Yangtze river where they met seven decades ago.
“The Aoyama Reien from the Meiji era is held by Tokyoites to be the most beautiful spot of the capital. In daylight hours, traces of incense from the burial ground lends a benign, impenetrable look to the colossal glass buildings lining up the streets, harmoniously mingling with the pale scent of flowers and hushed aromas of fresh pastry. Visitors to the graveyard would notice an old man of measured gait and unflustered guise taking to a quiet corner. For a few minutes he would sit still, lost in a remote ocean of memories. People assume he is talking to the dead, and if they could have heard his mind, they would catch these lines cited over and over. Ce toit tranquille, où marchent des colombes, entre les pins palpite, entre les tombes;Midi le juste y compose de feux. La mer, la mer, toujours recommencee…the sea in flames, that sea forever starting and re-starting. They watch him pull out a new sheet of paper. The rest of the day he shall not hear black crows cry, his pen scratching away on the grainy surface. He likes the fan shape of paper of his choice. It helps him remember that any storm in the world will pass, damp typhoon, destructive hurricane, cosmic cyclone, any brouhaha in the pantheon of weather, except a tickling summer breeze of memory that enters his heart like a billowing smooth waltz and tears it apart... ”
Butterfly, a novel by Julie O'Yang
Cover design by the author