Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui (Alma Books, 2007)

It begins with 3 schoolboys mucking about. Two of them push the third off a roof. His broken leg never recovers. Is this fact or reconstructed memory? The narrator (one of the guilty boys) has doubts - "But wait, there was something strange about this. They couldn't possibly have sung 'Don't Cry, My Little Dove'. The song didn't exist until after the war" (p.7). But he'd like to meet the two again.

It's a Twilight Zone episode; people with interlinked lives meet in hell. It's a place easily mistaken for the real world, or at least dream -

  • "Did they all commit suicide together so they could go on a sightseeing tour of Hell or something?" "I don't know. They could just be dreaming.", p.178
  • "It's not a dream. It's not reality. But I'm not dead. I'm alive but I can't go out of this bedroom. I can't go anywhere. I can't see anyone but you. That's Hell for me. This is my Hell", p.128

But if hell is just the real world without God, then why should godless Japaneses worry? Sometimes people can see each other's pasts. Sometimes passages are repeated or elaborated, though without being experimental. I liked a few short passages (e.g when Konzo gets lost under the stage), and there were moments when I thought issues like forgiveness, etc, were being addressed, but for the most part it was one thing after another. The following passage, which presumably translates wordplay from the Japanese, is atypical - "It hurts. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. There's no time, Mr Tortoise, we'll be late for the goldfish's funeral. Miki-chan, are we still together? We were going to go to the beach at Atami, but not any more. The air in my lungs feels like needles, needles ... Needless to say we're in Hell", p.138

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