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The Fox and Dr. Shimamura Summary and Reviews

The Fox and Dr. Shimamura

by Christine Wunnicke (author), Philip Boehm (translator)

The Fox and Dr. Shimamura by Christine Wunnicke (author), Philip Boehm (translator) X
The Fox and Dr. Shimamura by Christine Wunnicke (author), Philip Boehm (translator)
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2019
    160 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

A delicious mix of East and West, of wonder and irony, The Fox and Dr. Shimamura is a most curious novel

The Fox and Dr. Shimamura toothsomely encompasses Japan and Europe, memory and actuality, fox-possession myths and psychiatric mythmaking. The novel begins near the story's end, in Dr. Shimamura's retirement. A feverish invalid, he's watched over by four women: his wife, his mother, his mother-in- law, and a nurse (originally one of his psychiatric patients). His mother is busily writing and rewriting his biography, Between Genius and Madness.

As an outstanding young Japanese medical student at the end of the nineteenth century, Dr. Shimamura is sent―to his dismay―to the provinces: he is asked to cure scores of young women of an epidemic of fox possession. He considers the assignment a joke, believing it's all a hoax, until he sees a fox moving under the skin of a beauty. He comes to believe not just in fox possession, but also that he in fact "cured" the young woman with a kiss, by breathing in the fox demon (the root of his lifelong fever).

Next he travels to Europe and works with such luminaries as Charcot, Breuer and (briefly) Freud himself (whose methods he concludes are incompatible with Japanese politeness). The ironic parallels between Charcot's hack theories of female "hysteria" and Japanese ancient folklore―when it comes to beautiful writhing young women―are handled with a lightly sardonic touch by Christine Wunnicke, whose flavor-packed language is a delight.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Reviews. A marvel, a wonder―a deeply strange little novel about medicine, memory, and fox possession. With her delicate prose, arch tone, and mischievous storytelling, Wunnicke proves herself a master of the form." - Kirkus Reviews

"This gracefully amusing blend of history and imagination will beguile readers keen on questionable narrators and magical realism." - Publishers Weekly

"A wonderful and most of all wonderfully told story." - Die Zeit (Germany)

"What a beautiful book!" - Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany)

"Delightfully crazy―very nicely told: Wunnicke succeeds in drawing us into the logic of this mad world, where the fox moving under a girl's skin is as vivid (and believable?) as Charcot's demonstration of the arc of la grande hysterie." - Rosmarie Waldro

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More Information

Christine Wunnicke lives in Munich, Germany. She has published four award-winning novels, a biography, and several translations.

Philip Boehm is an American playwright, theater director, and the translator of numerous books, including Ingeborg Bachmann's Malina.

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