The Wave by Hokusai. An iconic piece of art that has been much used (and abused) over the years due to the ownership of the print blocks being in the publisher’s name, not the artist or his descendants. My art group did a version once for our annual exhibition. This was done as a mosaic: the organiser cut up an A4 (letter-sized) copy of the picture into a number of c 1 inch wide pieces, and we each took one or two and reproduced it in our own way, on paper provided so they would all fit back together. I used to love doing that! Unfortunately I never had a picture of any of our efforts. I remember doing a Breughel, and Constable’s Haywain, and this one.
This is the WEP project for this month, and I picked up Arlene, who we left in a cafe in Arles having chased down Van Gogh’s Starry Night. After you’ve read and commented on my (c780 word) effort, please visit the others. They’ll all be very different, since I went with the picture itself this time. Thank you Katsushika Hokusai – The Complete Works and Wikipedia for the facts!
In Search of the Wave
I read the last paragraph in my solicitor’s letter again, and tucked it carefully in the pocket under the little apron. How much longer did I want to wear this chic little waitress’ number? It had been a great job, a real lifer saver. Left in Arles when Hector had tired of my interests. Why would I want to return to a life as a trophy, sitting in Hector’s cabinet of a house, there to entertain his business colleagues? Such an archaic way of life. He should entertain them at the latest version of the Ivy, or the extremely exclusive sushi bar in Covent Garden. It may give itself a fancy name, but it was still a sushi bar.
Hector had gone home, bored with my quest to find all of the inspirations for Van Gogh’s masterpieces. After a while his phone calls ceased, to be replaced by texts and emails, followed by ultimatums couched in legal language from his solicitor.
Two could play that game.
My solicitor was even better. We had been at school together, although not in the same year. Sara based her rates on what she could screw out of unreasonable ex-husbands. After all, Hector had abandoned me in a village in France…
And now the decree nisi was granted, and the first half of the cash transfer was in my bank.
“He will pay the rest?” I texted.
So relaxing, to be here, working in the cafe-bar in Arles, spending my spare time exploring, and waiting for the next idea to strike.
The faded letter in the Van Gogh museum caught my imagination. Vincent had written to his brother Theo praising a drawing by Hokusai and its ‘great emotional impact.’ What drawing? ‘Mount Fuji under the Wave at Kanagawa’—one of the series of thirty-six views of Mount Fuji the artist had executed in the 1830s. I couldn’t wait for my next two-day break, since it would need an early start and a late return. Giverny was near Paris, and there was one of the original prints of the masterpiece at Monet’s house.
I climbed out of the taxi, pushing the umbrella out of the door first. It was not a day for admiring the garden. The rain fell in torrents, so it was just as well the museum was open. I’d checked in advance, of course. The curator was all smiles, dealt with my wet things, and opened the door to the room of special exhibits. I was the only visitor. “We keep it closed, madame, because of the light on the print. It needs especial care of course.”
“Of course. It’s a woodblock, is it not?”
“D’accord. And the blue was a new colour to Japan at that time. It was before the Americans arrived, of course.”
The curator nodded. “Beautiful, but alas, it fades.”
“And because they are prints, there are many of them. Are they all the same?”
“I believe later prints have a darker sky. There is one in America with some handpainted red detail on the boats. Ours is from the earlier series. That is its provenance, shown beside it.”
“It’s beautiful. You know, Van Gogh was right. It does have a huge emotional impact, standing here. Not like the many reproductions.”
“Indeed. Would madame care for some tea?”
The journey home included a wait for a train connection. I headed for a creperie I knew, just across the wooded place from the Gare de Lyon. I couldnt resist a quick browse through the secondhand book stalls on the way back. ’24 Views of Mount Fuji’ stared at me from the front of one tatty magazine of science fiction works. I bought it, even if the author, one Roger Zelazny, had lost twelve of them.
Train travel is great for ideas. I arrived back in Arles with my next great adventure mapped out. Checking on the internet, it all seemed feasible, if only this virus thing didn’t spread. But, it was fine in France, where I could speak the language. This was Japan. It was hardly a place to explore on my own. How would I know if they had a tsunami alert? Or another nuclear accident? Maybe there were tours doing art places…
Or maybe someone who spoke Japanese might like to come?
My next call to my solicitor was nothing to do with the divorce. It was more of a proposition. Would Sara Iwabuchi be interested in a visit to Japan in search of the thirty-six views of Mount Fuji of Hokusai’s works?
A wave of relief washed over me.
Now for some detailed research.
With thanks to the Japanese Women’s Ski Jumping team for the solicitor’s name 🙂
26 thoughts on “In Search of the Wave #flashfiction #WEPFF”
Lovely! I do like Arlene’s strong spirit.
Great story. I loved how you weaved in the theme with the story of the end of her relationship with her husband. Great ending.
I’m beginning to think Arlene could be a new favourite character in need of a novel. Trouble is, while I can do France with an extra bit of detailed searching, I can’t do Japan… or several other places she might like to go, like The Hermitage… and now you’ve got me really thinking, because of other places she could go that I have been to myself!
Hi Jemima – interesting take on the art work, the history and then ‘real life’ … wonderful weaving of ideas – a great take on the prompt. Congratulations and I look forward to another chapter … cheers Hilary
Love it! Arlene is a great character – hope she and Sara enjoy!!
I would much rather work at a cafe in Arles and research interesting works of art than be a trophy wife. She made the right choice!
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Fun story. I’ll definitely look for more of Arlene’s stories.
Love the story! Absolutely, irrevocably, love it. What a great entry to this prompt.
I reread the previous story and I see I thought that she had made the right choice. Now I know I was right!
I enjoyed your story. Cool how you wove some info about the woodblock print into the plot. I like stories where the MC has to make a life decision. The heck with Hector. Good choice! The story moved smoothly and was a good read.
Hi Jemima! This is so wonderful. I love your character Arlene and love how you pick her up from your ‘Starry Night’ piece. How lovely to live her life at the moment – I’d happily wait tables in beautiful, interesting Arles and do my thing on my days off, LOL. Please think about a novel or novella with Arlene as the MC. You’ve got a story here.
A side note. It’s amazing how many famous artists were inspired by the Japanese style, including Monet. I’ve been in the room you describe, but on a sunny day. Fantastic!
An engaging story. The ending of her marriage and a new step out into the deep to explore what life has to offer.
I do like a woman with a spirit of adventure and the single-minded purpose to go after her dreams. Hope we’ll get to read more of her travels in the coming months? – would make a great novella. I also liked that the prompt has been smoothly woven into the flash as itself. Thanks for a wonderful read.
Your MC definitely needs a novel. The voice is perfect for a modern woman who refuses to live in a “man’s” world. I enjoyed her passion for art and how she “makes it happen.”
I love your character’s passion for the arts and her adventurous spirit! I think I’d enjoy traveling with someone like her!
An interesting take on the prompt. Focusing on the artist.
That’s going to be one great adventure for her! I like the take on the prompt and the way the story flowed so naturally.
Great take Jemima. Particularly how you moved between the art piece and her life and the history.
Wonderful idea to search for places that inspired a painting. I’d like to join Arlene and Sarah on this trip, as I was always dfascinated by the views of Fujisan. And you wove in Roger Zelazny, another fave of mine – I’ve got to look this up, and hope you did not invent it.
Would I invent something by Roger Zelazny?? No, but it only seems to be in the magazine as mentioned. Couldn’t trace it in his bibliography otherwise. 😀
I love any adventure that takes me back to France. I would love to follow Arlene on her next trip. Japan is another special interest of mine!
thank you Jemima for this poignant take on the prompt and how new joys can overlap painful experiences. Enjoyed the back and forth dialogue about the prints and the recurrence of the theme of blue.
Wishing you an inspired and restful summer.
I liked reading about this woman who had so much adventure in her and wasn’t about to be deterred from seeing her dreams fulfilled. Excellent job making the story relative to the prompt and enjoyable.
Sounds like a fabulous trip to Japan is coming up. I’d love to be able to follow ideas like that!
I enjoyed reading your story very much.
Liked the calm, cool pace of the story.
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