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Wednesday, Sep. 19, 2012

Draft letter detailing novelist Mori's split with first wife comes to light


HAMAMATSU, Shizuoka Pref. — A manuscript believed to be a draft letter describing the circumstances leading up to the divorce of novelist Ogai Mori from his first wife has been found, the board of education in Iwata, Shizuoka Prefecture, said.

The document, apparently written by an elder brother of Mori's wife, Toshiko Akamatsu, said that Mori, who was born in 1862 and died in 1922, decided to live apart from her after a discussion made him aware of personality differences that were obstacles to his writing, according to the board of education.

The manuscript was analyzed by Kanji Sugimoto, an Iwata resident and member of Mori Ogai Kinenkai, an association commemorating the novelist.

"This is not something that can be directly linked to interpretations of Ogai's works, but it has a biographical value," Sugimoto said.

The document, written with a brush, appears to date from around October 1890, after Mori left his home, leaving behind Akamatsu and their newborn first son.

According to the document, which was intended for Akamatsu's father, Mori was quoted as saying that he is "absolutely incompatible with Toshi in temperament" and that the personality discord posed "obstacles to writing."

Mori, the author of "Maihime" ("The Dancing Girl") and other novels, said the couple decided to live apart after a discussion but added that they would "never do such a thing as divorce," according to the document. Mori also referred to discussions over custody of the son.

"It has been generally believed that Ogai's departure from home meant that the couple had split up, but the two may not have had any intention to get divorced at the time he left," Sugimoto said.

Sugimoto also said that accounts of Mori's divorce have so far been based on recollections by his siblings and offspring, and on the diary of Amane Nishi, a philosopher who was close to both families.

The letter was kept by descendants of the Akamatsu family.

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