About the work

The Land of Little Rain” is a collection of essays written by Mary Austin about the deserts and wild landscapes of California in the early years of the 20th Century. Although Austin does not provide us with exact place names, she apparently focuses on an area that spans from the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the south of Death Valley and the Mojave Desert. (map)

Even if you are a native speaker of English, you may be surprised to find that you are not familiar with the language used to describe the deserts, climate, geography, wildlife and plants referenced in this work; nevertheless, the culture and the people of this area are representative of western American deserts, a fact which can be seen from the American Indian and Spanish place names, such as Haiwai and Oppapago, El Tjon and Cañada de los Uvas, showing that this land resonated with many languages besides English.

Indeed, Austin spent much of her life living with, and learning from, various peoples such as American Indians, immigrants of Spanish origin, miners, shepherds - not to mention an abundance of wildlife. Austin herself was raised in Illinois and moved to California with her family in the latter half of the 1800’s, during an immigration drive of homesteaders and gold prospectors. She lived first in Bakersfield, and then moved from small town to small town in the Owens Valley area.

The Land of Little Rain was dashed off and completed in 1903 after over ten years living in the region, and represents the result of her long, and plentiful experience of the desert, and her observations of nature. In the foreword, Austin invites, “if ever you come beyond the borders as far as the town that lies in a hill dimple at the foot of Kearsarge, never leave it until you have knocked at the door of the brown house under the willow-tree at the end of the village street, and there you shall have such news of the land, of its trails and what is astir in them, as one lover of it can give to another.

The house she lived in still stands, in a small town at the foot of Kearsarge, and bears a plate indicating it was once the home of Mary Austin.

Kazue Daikoku (Japanese translator)

Contents | もくじ
The Land of Little Rain | 雨の降らない土地