Soaked with free flow of electrified emotions and the beauty of the Japanese culture during the early decades of the last century, this book “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden, is a fictional depiction of the life of a “geisha” based out of Kyoto during the pre/post Second World War.
“Geisha”, in Japanese, means a woman whose job is to entertain as dancers and singers and sometimes more depending on the situation. The story is revealed through the voice of Sayuri Natta, the female protagonist of the story. The medium of depiction is a systematic flash back commencing with a tragic and difficult childhood of a young girl whose destiny transformed her into one of the most famous “geishas” of Japan. The world war followed and once again transformed the life of Sayuri.
During these cycles of transformations, the book reveals several instances revolving around the life of Sayuri set amid the Japanese canvas. Her tragic childhood, early admiration for a man which transformed into passionate love with age, her tutelage with a senior geisha, her outperformance of her rivals and elevation to the ranks of the most successful geishas, her survival means during the world war and other themes are very sensitively lineated.
I loved this book for its sheer eloquence and more so because I have spent reasonable time in the oriental world. In 2005, this book was translated into an Oscar winning movie, directed by Rob Marshall. No wonder, the richness of the book which was aptly pictured in the movie won Oscars for art direction, cinematography and costume design.
But latter realization that the author of this book was sued by a retired geisha (Mineko Iwasaki) whom he had interviewed for the purpose of the novel was disappointing. It seems Arthur Golden had broken the traditional vow of silence by acknowledging Mineko Iwasaki as a source of the novel. Things that transpired were never pleasant.