Saturday, 11 October 2008

in search of a distant voice [w. taichi yamada]

Yamada's story is so slight you can barely hear it whispering between the pages. The narrative describes an episode in the life of Kasama Tsuneo, an immigration officer who lives and works in Tokyo. One day, whilst out on a mission, he is overwhelmed by an unexplained orgasmic wave; a short while later the voice of a woman appears in his head. The voice has sought him out, and is able to communicate with him at any given moment. The voice disrupts his career and his arranged marriage, and generally haunts poor Tsuneo. He finally reveals to the voice a story of how he brought about the downfall of Eric, a gay antiques dealer, who he worked for in Portland, Oregon, when he was staying in the States, as an illegal immigrant. The voice could be Eric, come back to haunt him in the guise of a woman, or it could be nothing to do with Eric. Yamada offers little by way of explanation.

This is part ghost story, part love story, and part (one suspects) commentary on the disconnectedness of modern Japan. To my mind it felt somewhat undercooked, but this might be because the culture I belong to is too clumsily steeped in notions of discernible significance. There's one point where the Woman's voice offers Tsuneo a haiku. The delicacy of this poetic form might be the best way of appreciating what Yamada is trying to achieve; the subtle unwrapping of a seemingly centred soul; the revelation that all of us have secrets in our closet. Furthermore, ghosts would seem to be, by definition, ephemeral creatures, beyond any evident grasp, and Yamada's use of the ghostly voice as an agent of disconcertion, rather than fear, is part of its appeal. Tsuneo never seems scared of this voice, indeed he feels a greater affinity with it than he does with the people he knows. Perhaps, to extrapolate, Yamada's thesis might be that love is like a ghost: something with the power to possess the soul without effort; something that, when it reaches out and siezes us, we are powerless to resist, no matter how great or small its connection to our daily lives. When the voice tells Tsuneo, shortly before leaving him, that she loves him, this seems entirely plausible, even though the two have never apparently met. Love functions, as do ghosts, on a metaphysical plane, its presence both tangible and intangible at the same time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ghosts, love, Japan, lazy sunday mornings, internet dating, breakfast metaphysics. All require more effort than one might first think. reckon.