Biographies of modern Japanese authors N-S

 

 

Nakajima Atsushi (May 5, 1909 - December 4, 1942)

Novelist born in Yotsuya, Tokyo. His father, like three other brothers from the same family, was a scholar of Chinese classics and taught that subject in middle school. This family background exerted a strong influence on Nakajima's own literary tastes. In 1926 Nakajima entered the First High School, advancing to the Japanese literature department of Tokyo University in 1930, from which he graduated in 1933. He continued his studies in the university's graduate school for a year after this, but in 1934 left the university without a degree. Meanwhile, he also found a job teaching at Yokohama Women's High School, a position he was to hold until 1941. Nakajima submitted the story Toragari (Tiger Hunt) to a contest for new writers sponsored by Chuō Kōron magazine in 1934, marking his debut on the literary scene. This and his later fiction gave him something of a reputation as an aesthetically oriented stylist. In 1941, Nakajima went to the Palau Islands as a participant in the Japanese government's program to teach Japanese to residents of occupied territories. Before leaving Japan, he completed the manuscript of Tsushitara no shi (Tusitala's Death), a novella based on the life of Robert Louis Stevenson, which he revised while in Palau and published in 1942 as Hikari to kaze to yume (Light, Wind, and Dreams), winning consideration as a candidate for the Akutagawa Prize. Tormented throughout his life by asthma, Nakajima found it necessary to resign from the Japanese government's South Seas Agency (Nanyō-chō) and return to Japan in March 1942. There he intended to devote himself completely to his writing, but his health sustained an additional setback when he contracted pneumonia. The added burden proved to be too much for Nakajima's fragile constitution, and he died in the winter at the age of just 33. Nakajima's works are widely admired both for their use of traditional Chinese sources and for the extraordinary quality of the language in which those sources find expression. The novel Light, Wind, and Dreams was translated into English by Akira Miwa in 1962 (revised edition 1965;. Tokyo: Hokuseido). Paul McCarthy and Nobuko Ochner have translated a number of Nakajima's short stories under the title The Moon Over the Mountain and Other Stories (Iowa City, IA: Autumn Hill Books, 2010).

Nakamura Kenkichi (January 25, 1889 - May 5, 1934)

Tanka poet born in Hiroshima prefecture. Studied under Itō Sachio and helped found the tanka journal Araragi. His early style was sensuous and fresh. This style was reflected in Rinsen shū (The Grove and Fountain Collection, 1916). Nakamura’s style then changed to reflect an attitude based on the serene contemplation of life. Subsequent collections included Keirai shū (The Gentle Rumble of Thunder, 1931), and Keirai shū igo (Since The Gentle Rumble of Thunder, 1934). Nakamura’s style changed frequently but was always characterized by an underlying sincerity.

Natsume Fusanosuke (b. 1950)

Manga artist and critic born in Tokyo; grandson of Natsume Sōseki. Graduate of Aoyama Gakuin University. Wrote a column on manga in the Shūkan Asahi weekly magazine from 1982-91, and in the 1990s turned to formal criticism based on an analysis of line-drawing and panel breaks. Books include Tezuka Osamu wa doko ni iru (Where is Tezuka Osamu?, 1992).

Natsume Sōseki (January 5, 1867 - December 9, 1916)

Natsume Sōseki, one of the premier novelists of modern Japan, was the literary name of Natsume Kinnosuke. Born in Tokyo, he spent his early childhood with two foster families before returning to his own family at the age of nine. As a student he excelled in both Chinese and English, entering the First Upper Middle School in 1888 and then proceeding (as was often the case) to Tokyo University in 1890.

The highly strung Sōseki graduated from Tokyo University, where he majored in English, in 1893, and while studying in the graduate school began teaching part-time at Tokyo Higher Normal School. In 1894 he abruptly accepted a job as an English teacher at Matsuyama (Shikoku) Middle School, moving to the Fifth Higher School in Kumamoto in 1895. He stayed here even after his marriage in 1896 until he was sent to England for two years on a government scholarship in 1900. Life in England for Sōseki was unpleasant, to say the least, and he returned to Tokyo in 1893 resolved never to go back. In April of the same year he was appointed lecturer at both the First Higher School and Tokyo University.

Sōseki, however, was dissatisfied with teaching, and the largely unexpected success of his early novels - including the lightly satirical Wagahai wa neko de aru (I Am a Cat, 1905-06) and Botchan (1906) - prompted him to give up his post in 1907 and join the Asahi Shimbun as the editor of its literary page. All of his subsequent serialized novels appeared in the newspaper's pages. The tone of these novels, beginning with Sanshirō (1908), Sorekara (And Then, 1909), and Mon (1910), was much darker than in Sōseki's previous fiction, many of the central characters belonging to what Donald Keene has called Sōseki's "gallery of self-torturing heroes." Some readers find the bleakness more than they can stomach, but several of these later works have a poignancy that is quite affecting, and one, Kokoro (1914), can be said to represent the legacy of a generation of Meiji intellectuals.

Sōseki suffered severe ulcer attacks beginning in 1910, after completing Mon. He came very close to death that year when he vomited a large quantity of blood while on a recuperative visit to the hot-spring resort of Shūzenji, in Izu. Sōseki's physical distress was further attended by profound marital disharmony. He continued to write and lecture, producing his last complete (and first autobiographical) novel Michikusa (Grass on the Wayside) in 1915, but succumbed to ulcer complications in 1916 before he could complete Meian (Light and Darkness).

  • The 210th Day. Trans. Sammy I. Tsunematsu. Boston: Tuttle Publishing, 2002.
  • And Then. Trans. Norma Moore Field. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1978. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978.
  • Botchan. Trans. Umeji Sasaki. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1967.
  • Botchan. Trans. Alan Turney. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1972.
  • Botchan. Trans. Joel Cohn. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 2005. New York: Kodansha America, 2005.
  • The Gate. Trans. William Sibley. New York; New York Review Books Classics, 2013. Also see Mon, below.
  • Grass on the Wayside. Trans. Edwin McClellan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969.
  • I Am a Cat. Trans. Katsue Shibata and Motonari Kai. Tokyo: Kenkyusha, 1961.
  • I Am a Cat. Trans. Aiko Itō and Graeme Wilson. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1972.
  • Inside My Glass Doors. Trans. Sammy I. Tsunematsu. Boston: Tuttle Publishing, 2002.
  • Kokoro. Trans. Ineko Kondo. Tokyo: Kenkyusha, 1950.
  • Kokoro. Trans. Edwin McClellan. Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1957.
  • Kokoro. Trans. Meredith McKinney. London: Penguin Books, 2010.
  • Kusamakura. Trans. Meredith McKinney. London: Penguin Books, 2008.
  • Light and Darkness. Trans. V. H. Viglielmo. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1971.
  • Master Darling. Trans.Yasotaro Mori. Tokyo: Kinseido, 1951. Reprint of Botchan; Master Darling, 1947.
  • The Miner. Trans. Jay Rubin. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1988.
  • Mon. Trans. Francis Mathy. London: Peter Owen 1971. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1971. Also see The Gate, above.
  • My Individualism and the Philosophical Foundations of Literature. Trans. Sammy I Tsunematsu. Boston: Tuttle Publishing, 2004.
  • Sanshirō. Trans. Jay Rubin. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1977.
  • Sanshirō. Trans. Jay Rubin. London: Penguin Classics, 2009.
  • Spring Miscellany. Trans. Sammy I. Tsunematsu. Boston: Tuttle Publishing, 2002.
  • Ten Nights' Dreams. Trans. Sankichi Hata and Dofu Shirai. Tokyo: Tokyo News Service, 1949.
  • Ten Nights of Dream. Trans. Ayako Into and Graeme Wilson. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1974.
  • The Three-Cornered World. Trans. Alan Turney. London: Peter Owen, 1965.
  • The Tower of London. Trans. Peter Milward and Kii Nakano. Brighton, UK: In Print Publishing, 1992.
  • The Wayfarer. Trans. Beongcheon Yu. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1967.
  • Brodey, Inger Sigrun and Sammy I. Tsunematsu. Rediscovering Natsume Soseki: With the First English Translation of Travels in Manchuria and Korea. Folkstone, Kent: Global Oriental, 2000.
  • Doi, Takeo. The Psychological World of Natsume Sōseki. Trans. William J. Tyler. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1976.
  • Gessel, Van C. Three Modern Novelists: Sōseki, Tanizaki, Kawabata. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1993.
  • Hibbett, Howard S. "Sōseki and the Psychological Novel." Tradition and Modernization in Japanese Culture. Ed. Donald H. Shively. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971.
  • Keene, Donald. Dawn to the West. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984.
  • McClellan, Edwin. Two Japanese Novelists. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969 (available from Charles E. Tuttle).
  • Miyoshi, Masao. Accomplices of Silence. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974.
  • Tsuruta, Kin'ya and Thomas E. Swann, eds. Approaches to the Modern Japanese Novel. Tokyo: Sophia University, 1976.
  • Ueda, Makoto. Modern Japanese Writers and the Nature of Literature. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1976.

The Eldritch Press Natsume Soseki Home Page: This site contains the complete text of Edwin McClellan's translation of Kokoro (with the permission of Regnery Gateway, which owns the copyright). It can also be downloaded as a ZIP compressed file. Some links are listed, but they date from 2000 and are mostly broken.

The Museum Meiji-Mura: This site includes a photograph of the house shared (at different times) by both Ōgai and Natsume Sōseki in Tokyo, now relocated to this outstanding open-air architectural museum in Aichi Prefecture. The photograph can be found in the list on this page.

The Soseki Museum in London: A site in Japanese devoted primarily to Sōseki's (dismal, according to some) two-year stay in England, with pictures of various artifacts and short explanations attached. Photographs of the lodging houses in which Sōseki stayed are also available. A previously promised English site never materialized, and the Japanese site is marred by a garish and confusing layout. A more inviting, if briefer, introduction to Sōseki's London Blue-Plaque lodging can actually be found at London-Go.com.

Nishiwaki Junzaburō (January 20, 1984 - June 5, 1982)

Poet born in Niigata Prefecture in 1894. He went to Tokyo intending to be a painter, but abandoned the idea and instead entered Keio University. He became interested in the poetry of Baudelaire and Rimbaud, and started writing his own poems under the influence of Hagiwara Sakutarō’s Tsuki ni hoeru (Howling at the Moon, 1917). Later he studied abroad at Oxford University, where he was directly exposed to the current of modernism in British literature. After returning to Japan, he became a professor at Keio University and published criticism in the journal Shi to shiron (Poetry and Poetics). His main works include Ambarvalia (1933), and Tabibito kaerazu (No Return for the Traveler, 1947).

Ōe Kenzaburō (b. January 31, 1935)

Japan's second Nobel Prize-winning novelist was born in the village of Ose in Ehime Prefecture on the island of Shikoku. He lived in this archetypal " heavily wooded valley" up to the end of WWII, and has said that his subsequent world view was conditioned by the youth he spent there. After graduating from Matsuyama East High School, Ōe left Shikoku to study French literature at Tokyo University, where he found himself attracted especially the works of Sartre. In 1957, while still a student, he published the story Kimyō na shigoto (Curious Work) in the student paper, winning praise from such critics as Ara Masahito and Hirano Ken and thus making his literary debut. In the same year he also published Shisha no ogori (The Arrogance of the Dead), a study of the malaise and vanity of people in the modern world. Ōe received the Akutagawa Prize in 1958 for Shiiku (The Catch). In this work Ōe depicts through a boy's eyes the fear and confusion that overtakes an isolated village at the end of the war when an airplane crash places an American soldier in the villagers' midst and they decide to "raise" him. Ōe's first full-length novel, Me mushiri ko uchi (Nip The Buds, Shoot the Children), also come out in 1958. This work explores the hope and frustration felt by a group of children who live alone in a remote mountain village. In this way, Ōe rapidly established a reputation as a postwar writer whose works treated, with great imaginative richness, existential themes of life under isolated conditions. Later Ōe took part in the anpo tōsō (the struggle over the 1960 renewal of the US -Japan Security Treaty) and wrote on the frustrated existence of youth as filtered through the lenses of politics and sexuality. In 1963, Ōe's son, Hikari, was born with a severe mental handicap. This experience proved to be a turning point, causing Ōe to abandon a style based on imagery and technique and to adopt more realistic themes and modes of expression. The result was such works as Kojinteki na taiken (A Personal Matter, 1964) and Atarashi hito yo mezameyo (Rouse Up, O Young Men of the New Age!, 1983), which seemed filled with hope for life. From about the time of Hikari's birth, Ōe also began to visit Hiroshima and take a serious interest in the devastation and human suffering caused by nuclear weapons. The result of this new interest was Hiroshima nōto (Hiroshima Notes, 1964). He also traveled to Okinawa and become actively involved?both in word and deed?with exploring the problem of a writer's political responsibility from the standpoint of a supporter of postwar democracy. During this period, he published fictional works dealing with themes of violence, death, and personal regeneration such as Man'en gannen no futtobōru (Football in the First Year of Man'en, 1967), Kōzui wa wa ga tamashii ni oyobi (The Deluge Reaches to My Very Soul, 1973), and Dōjidai geemu (Contemporary Games, 1979). Ōe received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994, signaling the recognition of the universal nature of his themes. The prize committee commended him as a novelist who "with poetic force creates an imagined world, where life and myth condense to form a disconcerting picture of the human predicament today." Recent works include the Moeagaru midori no ki trilogy (The Flaming Green Tree, 1993-1995) and Chūgaeri (Summersault, 1999).

Ogawa Kunio (December 21, 1929 - April 9, 2008)

Novelist born in Shizuoka Prefecture; a graduate of the Japanese literature department at Tokyo University. In 1957 Ogawa wrote a story titled Aporon no shima (Isles of Apollo, 1957) on the basis of a trip he had taken to the Mediterranean. Eight years later, this story was praised by the novelist Shimao Toshio, an event that launched Ogawa on his career as a writer. Ogawa is widely admired for his insight into nature and mankind, and for his clear yet dense style. Works include Kokoromi no kishi (Attempted Shorest, 1972), Seidō jidai (The Bronze Age,1957), and Itsumin (Recluse, 1986), as well as numerous essays and travel accounts.

Ōoka Makoto (b. February 16, 1931)

Poet and critic born in Shizuoka Prefecture. His father was also a poet, and he began to compose poetry under the influence of both his father and Kubota Utsubo. After graduating from the Japanese literature department of Tokyo University, ?oka joined the group associated with the journal Kai (Paddle) and also helped start the poetry magazine Wani (Crocodile). He published his first anthology, Kioku to genzai (Memory and the Present), in 1956. His many works of criticism include Chōgenjitsu to jojō (Surrealism and Lyricism, 1965), Tōji no kakei (The Background of a Profligate, 1969), Ki no Tsurayuki (1971), and Kotoba no chikara (The Power of Language, 1971). Since 1979 he has edited the popular Ori-ori no uta (Occasional Poems) series in the Asahi Shinbun.

Ryū Keiichirō (1923 - 1989)

Novelist from Tokyo who studied under Kobayashi Hideo. He published his first work of fiction, Yoshiwara gomenjō (A Yoshiwara Operating License, 1984), when he was over sixty years old. Based on Ryū’s personal conception of history, this novel portrays a class of rootless people who must struggle against discrimination in an attempt to recover their freedom and human dignity. Other works built around the same framework include Kakurezato kugaikō (Painful Pilgrimage to a Secret Village, 1987), Ichimu-an fūryū ki (An Elegant Account of the Hut of Dreams, 1989), and Kagemusha Tokugawa Ieyasu (The Double of Sh?gun Tokugawa Ieyasu, 1989). Ryū's work had a revolutionary influence on the development of the Japanese historical novel.

Sagisawa Megumu (June 8, 1968 - April 11, 2004)

Novelist born in Tokyo; real name Matsuo Megumi. She entered the Russian department of Sophia University in 1987 but left the university before graduating. Kawaberi no michi (The Path by the River, 1987) received favorable attention because of its subtle description of the restless spirit of an adolescent boy with a difficult family life; the novel won the Bungakukai Prize for New Writers, making Sagisawa the youngest writer ever to receive it. Kaerenu hitobito (Those Who Can Never Return, 1989), with its depiction of frustrated youth, was a candidate for the Akutagawa Prize. In 1989 Sagisawa also published Shōnentachi no owaranai yoru (The Endless Night of Youth), which was followed by such works as Stylish Kids (1990), Hazakura no hi (After the Cherry Blossoms, 1990), and Kakeru shōnen (The Running Boy, 1992). In her fiction, Sagisawa focused on the topic of modern youth seen within the context of a complex web of human relationships, portraying the anxieties of young people with a fresh sensitivity. Daitōryō no Kurisumasu tsurii (The Presidential Christmas Tree, 1994), F-Rakudaisei (An F-Student, 1996), and Bye-Bye (1997) helped her to establish a reputation as a truly contemporary author. Collections of essays include Machi e deyō, kisu o shiyō (Let’s Go to Town and Kiss, 1991) and Kenari mo hana, sakura mo hana (The Kenari and the Cherry Are Both Flowers, 1994). Her death at the age of 35 was a suicide.

Saijō Yasō (January 15, 1982 - August 12, 1970)

Tokyo-born poet whose poems are characterized by a refreshing lyricism. His collections include Sakin (Gold Dust, 1916), Rōningyō (Wax Doll, 1923), Utsukushiki sōshitsu (A Beautiful Loss, 1926), and Ichiaku no hari (A Handful of Crystals, 1951). In addition to such critical works as Aruchuru Ranbō ron (A Study of Arthur Rimbaud, 1967), Saijō also wrote a large number of children’s and popular songs.

Sasaki Nobutsuna (July 8, 1872 - December 2, 1963)

Tanka poet and critic born in Mie Prefecture. Leader of the Chikuhaku-kai group, which was formed with the purpose of reforming Japanese poetry. The group published a journal of Japanese poetry called Kokoro no hana (Flowers of the Heart) beginning in 1898. Sasaki’s collections include Omoigusa (Grasses of Thought 1903), Shingetsu (New Moon, 1912), Toyohata gumo (Clouds Streaming in the Wind, 1929), and Yama to mizu to (Mountains and Water, 1951). Sasaki also published studies of the Man’yōshu and the history of Japanese verse, most notably Kagaku ronsō (Controversies over Japanese Verse, 1908), Nihon kagaku-shi (The History of Japanese Poetry, 1910) and Waka-shi no kenkyū (Studies in Japanese Poetry, 1915).

Sasō Akira (b. 1961)

Manga artist born in Hyōgo Prefecture. Graduated from Waseda University's School of Literature. Known for portraying the casual occurrence of sex and violence in everyday life. The Shindō (Child Prodigy) series won an Award for Excellence in the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize competition in 1999.

Sata Ineko (September 25, 1904 - October 12, 1998)

Real name, Sata Ine. Sata began her career as a proletarian novelist, but underwent tenkō in the 1930s. After the war, she wrote autobiographical works focusing on the problem of her wartime collaboration and her stormy relationship with the Japanese Communist Party.

Satō Ken'ichi (b. March 12, 1968)

Novelist born in Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture. In 1993 won the Shōsetsu Subaru Prize for New Writers for Jagā ni natta otoko (The Man Who Turned Into a Jaguar) while a graduate student at Tohoku University. Began writing full-time after completing his degree requirements in the autumn of 1998. Ōhi no kekkon (The Queen's Marriage, 1999) received the 121st Naoki Prize. Lives in Tsuruoka City.

Shiba Ryōtarō (August 7, 1923 - February 12, 1996)

Shiba Ryōtarō was born in Osaka Prefecture. He received the Naoki Prize for Fukurō no shiro (The Castle of Owls, 1959), a panoramic novel of premodern Japan. Shiba then went on to redefine the genre of the Japanese historical novel. His Ryōma ga yuku (Ryōma Ventures Forth, 1962-66) is based on the life of the late-Edo-period samurai Sakamoto Ryōma; Kunitori monogatari (Tale of Conquest, 1965) won the Kikuchi Kan Prize; Junshi (Self-Immolation, 1967), dealing with the suicide of General Nogi Maresuke, was awarded the Mainichi Art Prize; Yo ni sumu hibi (Alive in the World, 1969-70), about the Meiji Restoration activists Yoshida Shōin and Takasugi Kensaku, received the Yoshikawa Eiji Award for Literature; and Kaidō o yuku (Traveling Along the Old Highways, 1984), won the Grand Prize for Japanese Literature. Shiba remained a prolific writer and popular public speaker up to the time of his death.

Shiga Naoya (February 20, 1883 - October 21, 1971)

Novelist born in the town of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, but brought up in Tokyo after his father, Naoharu, took the family there when Naoya was two. Raised largely by his grandmother. Received instruction in Christianity from Uchimura Kanzō for a period of seven years beginning in 1900. Shiga decided to become a novelist around the time he entered Tokyo Imperial University in 1906. He dropped out in 1910, and in the same year joined with Mushanokōji Saneatsu, Arishima Takeo, Kinoshita Rigen, Satomi Ton and others to establish the magazine Shirakaba. He was opposed in this by his father, and their conflict over this and other issues gave rise to a turbulent period in Shiga's life that ended when a reconciliation took place in 1917. Afterward Shiga enjoyed a relatively settled life. Known for a taut, "un-novelistic" style of writing that Akutagawa, among others, held to be the epitome of the novelist's art.

Shiina Rinzō (October 11, 1911 - March 28, 1973)

Shiina was born in the village of Sosamura, Hyōgo Prefecture, where he grew up after spending a short period in Osaka. A leftwing activist before the Second World War, he turned away from communism in the 1930s and took an interest in Dostoevsky. He eventually converted to Christianity after the war, finding in it an affirmation of life that refelcted the reverse image of his own feelings of despair. Shiina's style can be said to reflect an existential concern with the pursuit of freedom. His novels include Shin'ya no shuen (A Midnight Feast, 1947), Eien naru joshō, (The Eternal Prologue,1948), and Jiyū no kanata de (Beyond Freedom, 1954).

Shinkawa Kazue (b. April 22, 1929)

Poet born in Ibaraki Prefecture. She graduated from Yūki High School and began writing poetry at the age of 20 under the poet Saijō Yaso. In 1965 she received the Murō Saisei Prize for her anthology Rōma no aki, sono ta (Autumn in Rome and Other Poems). She writes poems with a distinctive sense of rhythm and a skillful use of metaphor. Other major anthologies include the Nemuri isu (The Sleeping Chair, 1953), Hiyu de wa naku (Not as a Metaphor, 1968), and Hata-hata to peeji ga mekure (Let the Pages Flip By, 1999), which won the Rekitei Prize for poetry.

Shōno Junzō (b. February 9, 1921)

Novelist born in Osaka whose father was the founder of Tezukayaka Gakuin high school. As a middle school student he was taught Japanese by the poet Itō Shizuo. He entered the department of oriental history at Kyushū University, where he came under the influence of the older Shimao Toshio. While working first as a schoolteacher and then with a broadcasting company, Shōno published such stories as Yuki Hotaru (Snow and Fireflies, 1943), Butō (Dance, 1950), and Aibu (The Embrace, 1953). He associated with Yoshiyuki Junnosuke and Yasuoka Shōtarō and was regarded as one of the early postwar Dai-san no shinjin, (“third generation of newcomers”). In 1955 he received the Akutagawa Prize for Pūrusaido shōkei (Poolside Scenes, 1954). A Rockefeller grant took him to Kenyon College, Ohio, in 1957, after which he quit his job to concentrate on writing. The 1959 Ganbia taizaiki (Diary of a Stay in Gambier), now considered one of his most representative works, was based on his experiences in the United States. The 1960 novel Seibutsu (Still Life) won the Shinchōsha Prize, Yūbe no kumo (Yesterday Evening’s Clouds) received the Yomiuri Prize for Literature in 1966, and Eawase (The Picture-Matching Contest) took the Noma Prize for Literature in 1971. Subsequent major works include Sōshūn (Early Spring, 1982) and Sekirei (Sadness, 1998). Shōno is admired for his ability to portray family life in a manner that is poignant yet understated.