BA. Conrad Aiken


11. ‘Field of Flowers’. In Costumes by Eros. New York: Scribner, 1928.

Aiken’s facility with narrative is evident both in his long poems and his short stories. This story from his second collection demonstrates his love and knowledge of ukiyoe (though see 9a). The title derives from a Hiroshige (Ap) landscape, and the climactic scene takes place in a shop that sells Japanese prints. The central character is exhilarated by what he sees. An Utamaro of three fisherwomen carries him to ‘a world of serenity and perfection’, and the Hiroshige landscape of the title is ‘exquisite . . . like a poem . . . like a piece of music by Debussy . . . . His hand positively trembled as he held it’. Includes description of these and other prints, Hiroshige’s ‘Fox Fires’, ‘Monkey Bridge’, and works in the ‘Tokaido road set’ (Tôkaidô gojûsan tsugi, Fifty-three stations of the Tôkaidô), and others by Utamaro and Hokusai (Ap). Killorin (in introduction to 19) notes that Aiken frequented ukiyoe shops in London in the twenties, particularly one in Holborn where the Japanese proprietor, Kato, taught him to read the names of the artists. The work is reprinted in two later collections of Aiken’s fiction, The Short Stories of Conrad Aiken (New York: Duell, Sloane, Pearce, 1950; reprint, Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries, 1971) and The Collected Short Stories of Conrad Aiken (New York: World, 1960; reprint, New York: Schocken, 1982).





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