I read Nagasaki by Éric Faye in July, so I had to skim the book this week to refresh my memory in order to share some thoughts about it. Éric Faye is a French journalist and the author of many books; this book was translated from French by Emily Boyce, but the book is set in Nagasaki, Japan. It is based on a story that appeared in several Japanese newspapers in May 2008, and it has a distinct Japanese feel to it, so I think it qualifies as Japanese literature. Thankfully, it's not too late to add my post to Dolce Bellezza's Japanese Literature Challenge 9. I received Nagasaki in the mail over a year ago from Meryl Zegarek Public Relations.
If you take a good look at the book cover above (click to enlargen it), you'll see that the book is described as brief and understated (two qualities which added to its appeal for me) by L'Express, a French weekly news magazine headquartered in Paris. As I mentioned in a previous post, I chose to read this mystery novella during the weekend that my daughter, Jasmine, was leaving for Japan, to teach English. We headed up to Los Angeles together before her departure, and I brought along a book set in Japan, in her honor. Nagasaki is just over 100 pages, so it was the right length to read in my sparse spare time that weekend. (Jasmine told me quite recently that she went to a library in Japan that is near her. Of course, this pleases me.)
Nagasaki centers around the main character, a 56-year-old, unmarried meteorologist, Shimura Kobo, who lives a simple life in a modest house in a suburb of Nagasaki. He is comfortable in his solitude. His neighborhood is safe, and he often left his front door unlocked. His life has been ordinary and predictable, perhaps dull even, up until now. Suddenly, he notices that certain things in his orderly house are missing, or have been slightly moved. At least he thinks this is the case--he is not sure. Shimura becomes uneasy. He wonders if has an unseen, uninvited house guest, or if he's just imagining or forgetting things. For example, there is less juice in the container (from the back cover : "Only eight centimetres of juice remained, compared to fifteen when I had left for work").
"I had new evidence that something really was going on, the third such sign in the last fortnight, and bear in mind that I'm a very rational person, not someone who would believe a ghost was popping in in to quench his thirst and polish off the leftovers."
Nagasaki, Éric Faye
Much of the book is written from the point of view of the main character. Shimura's inner thoughts, his internal monologue, and his numerous questions are presented. He doubts what he sees, and he questions what is happening in his house. He's puzzled and repulsed by the possibility that a stranger, an intruder, may be living in his home. Determined to solve this troubling mystery, Shimura sets up a webcam so that he can "spy" on his house while he's at work.
Though quiet and contemplative, Nagasaki holds your attention firmly. As I read this novel, I became entranced. I imagined myself experiencing this odd scenario. If I lived alone, I would be alarmed if I thought someone else was eating the food in my refrigerator, or otherwise using my personal stuff. It would feel creepy. As mentioned above, I skimmed the book before I wrote this post, and reread parts. Now I want to reread the whole book again, slowly. This thoughtful novella is beautifully written. It is simply sublime.
Thanks to Meryl Zegarek Public Relations for sending me a complimentary copy of this book, and to Bellezza from Dolce Bellezza for hosting the Japanese Literature Reading Challenge 9. It has been a joy to participate. Although I've only read a handful of Japanese novels over the past few years, I've deeply enjoyed them. I've also shared several with Jasmine, who's now able to read some of them in Japanese!
Thanks for reading! I hope you are having a wonderful holiday season. Your comments are a valuable addition to this post.