1 May, Jiro Asada

文字数 4,045文字

The Roost

Let me share a story unrelated to the coronavirus, about the morning when I opened my mailbox to find that a family of small birds had taken up residence within its cozy confines.
  I spend summers isolated deep in the forest, in a


more conducive to work. When an extension was added to the house a few years ago, the master carpenter kindly fashioned a custom mailbox as a finishing flourish. However, as the home is not my primary address, I rarely receive mail out in the woods. It seems the birds, sensing opportunity, decided my mailbox would be an ideal place to build their nest, undisturbed by the postman.
  The front flap of the mailbox swings open sideways, affording a cross-sectional view of the birds’ handiwork. I could clearly see each layer of material that had been carefully brought back to the nest over the long winter, like observing the strata in a dissected mattress.
  The base consisted of a few centimeters’ worth of twigs in place of mattress springs, supporting a thick layer of moss cushioning, all blanketed by a tidy sheet of dandelion fluff. I admit that I admired their resourcefulness. The nest was a true work of art.
  Although this avian abode had been fully furnished, it appeared that my tenants were away from the roost. As a newly minted landlord, I didn’t feel it was my prerogative to evict the squatters in their absence.
  A few days passed. Anxiously opening the mailbox door, I came eye to eye with a small songbird, sleepily incubating her eggs. Startled by this human intruder, the tiny titmouse puffed up in a feeble attempt at intimidation. Far from menacing, there was something endearing about the bird’s presence, and her readiness to protect her brood. I heard myself reflexively whisper an apology for the disturbance as I gingerly closed the door.
  Back when I was a child, practically every household kept a pet bird or two. For many schoolboys of my generation, summers were spent cultivating a menagerie of Bengalese finches, Java sparrows, and titmice. When the backyard clothesline sprouted a homemade dovecote, it was a sign that the hobby had begun to grow out of hand. A few of my more intrepid classmates would inevitably end up training a personal fleet of homing pigeons. A product of my era, I still have a special nostalgic attachment to birds to this day.
  Just now, I snuck another peek inside the mailbox to check in on my stowaways. Although the adults were away from the nest, I excitedly discovered nine pea-sized eggs, resting in an orderly arrangement atop their dandelion bed. Surely, the couple is off enjoying lunch in the warm afternoon sun, fortifying themselves for the evening’s shared incubation duty.
  Nestled in the comfort of my own writing den, it occurs to me that perhaps the lifestyle of the novelist has more in common with birds than with that of my fellow man. I might balk at the use of lofty terms such as self-expression or artistic creation to describe the craft. Instead, I see the act of writing as analogous to the mother bird who patiently incubates her eggs, waiting to bring her progeny into the world, fully formed.
  As a faithful practitioner of the ascetic, writerly existence, the din of the outside world does not disturb my roost. Today, the isolation is undoubtedly a thankful reprieve.

Translated by Daniel González/Arranged by TranNet KK

Jirō Asada
Born in 1951. Won the 16th Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers in 1995 for




(Riding the subway), the 117th Naoki Prize for



, the 13th Shibata Renzaburō Award for




(The legend of the retainer of Mibu), the 42nd Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for Literature for




(The rainbow of Zhongyuan), the 43rd Osaragi Jirō Prize for


(Homecoming), among other awards. Receiving widespread acclaim as a contemporary storyteller, his works range from novels to nonfiction essays. His most recent work is



(Daimyo bankruptcy).




  • 特大
  • 生成り
  • 水色
  • 明朝
  • ゴシック
  • 横組み
  • 縦組み