Publisher: Red Circle Authors Ltd
When Richard at Red Circle Authors emailed me to ask whether I would be interested in reading 3 short stories written by Japanese authors and translated into English, I said yes please for two reasons.
One, I have read very little translated fiction. As I write this I am racking my brain to try and think whether I’ve actually read ANY translated fiction….if I have then it was completely inadvertently and that’s a crying shame.
Secondly, if you’ve been around here for a while, you will undoubtedly know that I LOVE a short story and take great pleasure in treating myself to a soak in the bath and good little blast of fiction.
Richard very kindly sent me a trio of short stories, two of which have been translated from Japanese. The premise of each of the stories (after a little googling) sounded intriguing and I was hopeful that I would be in for a treat.
First up we have Stand-In Companion by Kazufumi Shiraishi.
This little gem stands at 43 pages long and tells the story of the marriage of Hayato and Yutori, a couple struggling with fertility issues at a time where IVF is no longer approved aside from special cases. Black market IVF is available at huge cost, not just financial, if a pregnancy resulting from IVF is discovered, an abortion is ordered.
This is a dystopian tale of their love, loss, jealousies and fertility struggles. When they divorce and lose each other, stand-in companions are requested to take each other’s place. Essentially this is an AI unit which looks exactly like them and which has their memories downloaded into them. Amazing right?!
However, these companions are meant only as a temporary salve for the loss of a loved one and usually assigned to the bereaved and have a life span of only 10 years. After this their signal is interrupted and they cease functioning.
What I loved about this quirky dystopian story was the real heart stored within its brief number of pages. Despite being centred around technology and ‘robots’ if you will, it was absolutely drenched in human emotion. A story that packed a huge punch and had me thinking about advancing technology and the way the world could be in the future. It’s amazing that such a brief story can really get you thinking!
Next up we have Tokyo Performance by Roger Pulvers. This one is the only one originally written in English and therefore not translated (obvs!). This tells the story of television celebrity chef Norimasa ‘Nori’ Inomata in the pre-internet age. A man who has revelled in his fame and relished it for decades. A man who has personality and charisma in abundance and who is capable of having the middle aged ladies eating out of his hand with his smooth talk and slightly racy innuendo. When Nori takes a phonecall from his ex-wife live on air, his life and celebrity status begins to unravel. Told through the eyes of his overlooked female producer this is a fascinating insight into the notion of ‘celebrity’ and the very public breakdown of a much loved star live on TV.
The format in which this story is written was a large plus point for me. Alternating between the narrative of Nori’s producer between ad breaks and the live dialogue flow of Nori as he presents his cooking show and talks to his studio audience. (I must admit the food descriptions drew me in too!).
A quirkily told tale that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Lastly in this trio we have Backlight by Kangi Hanawa. I knew this was about a young boy going missing in the mountains but I didn’t realise it was based on the true story of the 7 year old boy who was kicked out of his family car into bear inhabited mountains by his parents as a punishment. When they returned some ten minutes later, the boy had disappeared. This happened in 2016 and the boy was eventually found alive and well (if a little hungry!) six days after he disappeared. Interestingly this story is told from the perspective of various psychologists who were working on the case and trying to decipher how the boy would have felt and how he would have been thinking and therefore which actions he took and where he could have possibly headed.
This trio of short stories felt very fresh and unique, I was interested to not only read the stories themselves but the story behind how they came to be published and the background of the three authors who have won numerous literary awards between them. They are books that I perhaps wouldn’t have ordinarily picked up to read, but they have made a very welcome home on my bookshelf.
Thank you very much to Richard and Red Circle Authors for sending me the books and allowing me experience some great translated fiction.
See you all soon
Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx