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"The Kimono."
Page Count
Word Count
American Aphrodite
Publication Year
Document Types
First-Person Narratives
Marriage, Adultery, Jewish reference

A man in his fifties reflects on his early years when, respectably married and about to begin a respectable career, he entered an affair with a kimono-clad woman and lived with her incognito, leaving no trace of his whereabouts.

In time, the woman took on other lovers and her father returned from prison to steal from them. He reflects on his choices so many years previously "and thinking and wondering, I sat there and cried like a child."

Richard Church, writing in John O'London's Weekly brings special attention to this tale: "There is no descriptive writing, for the tale is told in the first person. Yet we see that man, and his gradual degeneration through twenty-five years of obsession by a physical passion so faithful that it is almost ascetic. The story reeks with the taint of hot blood; yet nothing is said or accentuated by the author. He just shows us the victim, who speaks almost inarticulately (he is no artist, only a failed engineer). But how that siren lives: her hair, her pure animality, her devastating kindness and simplicity."

In an introductory essay to the collection Country Tales (1938), Bates wrote that although the story was written upon being "invited to write a story round an idea," he instead wrote it "in defiance of the idea. It is a straightforward story in which character and atmosphere are predominant and the idea almost completely subservient. The characters, as living characters should, have swallowed up the plot." He goes on to say that when the story and its companions (the other stories about missing persons) "came to be serialized in a Sunday newspaper 'The Kimono' was banned."

The eleven submissions of "short stories on the familiar broadcasts for missing persons" were published in Missing From Their Homes (London: Hutchinson, 1936), which included stories by E.M. Delafield, Anthony Berkeley, Louis Golding, Mrs. Belloc-Lowndes, Graham Greene, Phyllis Bentley, Arthur Machen, A.E. Coppard, R.H. Mottram, and L.A.G. Strong.

In Something Short and Sweet (1937), Country Tales (1938), Country Tales (1940), Twenty Tales (1951), Selected Stories (1957), Seven by Five/The Best of H. E. Bates (1963), Elephant's Nest in a Rhubarb Tree & Other Stories (1989). Reprinted in American Aphrodite (5:19, 1955), Daughters of Eve (1962), The Best Love Stories (1985), And All For Love (2001).