(Book Review) ‘The Miracle of the Detroit Institute of Art’ by Maha Harada / 「デトロイト美術館の奇跡」原田マハ

by Miki
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Have you ever met a piece of art that you felt was like a friend to you?


This book might be fiction, but it is based on the real-life history of the Detroit Institute of Art, and is set around the time when they faced a severe financial crisis and had to consider selling off the artworks.


The characters in this book love the museum, and we are given different point of view including a curator, art collector, visitor, visitor’s husband… They all try their best to save the museum, their beloved memories of it held tight, thinking of their favourite piece of art as if it was their friend.


The painting of ‘Madame Cézanne’ forms the centre of the whole story: both how it has come to the Detroit Institute of Art, and how it’s been appreciated by visitors. Because the novel is set in the actual place where this distinctly real artwork is located, it is hard to differentiate the points which have been fictionalised – this is amongst the prime points people enjoy most about the author Maha Harada’s work. Utilising her experience as an art curator herself, she has written many fiction books based on the actual artists’ lives and artworks, and the greatest thing about her work is how these stories will make you feel more attached to the world of art. Even without any prior knowledge about art and art history, Maha Harada’s novels will surely open a door to the beautiful world art can encapsulate.

「画家の夫人 – マダム・セザンヌ」という実在する作品を中心に添え、どうしてデトロイト美術館に所蔵され、どんな人が鑑賞しているのか…小編で語られるストーリーです。フィクションでありながらリアルな作品と設定について語るからこその臨場感があります。どこまでが事実で、どこからが空想上のフィクションなのか…その境目がわからない不思議な読書感覚こそ、原田マハさんの作品の面白さ、良さだなと感じます。著者自身がキュレーターとして得た知見が活かされていると感じるアート小説を多数発表されています。そのどれもが、たとえアートについて何も知らない人にとっても、アートを面白く、身近に感じさせるような物語に仕上がっている。

This book is just 120 pages long, probably shorter than most examples of the novella format available in English. With such a short length, the story provides you just enough of the life story and introduction to the artwork, with a heartwarming, comforting afterglow. Such a gem to read! I really wish for Maha Harada’s work to be translated into English soon so that wider audiences around the world can enjoy them. (Like I mentioned, this mix of fiction and reality might potentially offend some art lovers – however, hopefully the readers will embrace its qualities of fictional writing.)



  • 新潮社
  • An English Translation is not currently available. The English title has been given as ‘DIA: A Portrait of Life’ on the cover of the Japanese version, however, I thought translating the title as ‘The Miracle of the Detroit Institute of Art” sounded more accurate.
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