Re: Section 5
I never understood the significance of that incident either. Was it what sparked his aversion to water, or was it just used as an illustration of his character? I’m still unsure.
Life seems to be good at home (and the husband is now waiting for her with freshly cooked food apparently), work life not so much. Wild rumours about the reasons behind her return are circulating, as one would expect in a small town where everyone knows (about) everyone else. Interestingly, Itsumi seems to have as much a sense of disconnect from her new life as she had in Tokyo, as if she’s watching someone else’s life instead of living hers.
I found this section disturbing. The fish should have been returned to the river ages ago, but it seems Itsumi’s mother wanted to teach her a lesson about responsibility - and failed. After so many years of indifference and indecision, why did she have to return the fish to the river on that particular day, when the river was dry? Surely the thing to do was to return with the fish, and try again another day? Ask her mother to keep taking care of the fish for a little while longer if she had to leave before that? But no, she still makes no decision at all, which is of course still equivalent to making one. In a place where she’s not even sure the water is suitable, right between the river and the sea, she just leaves the fish in the bowl, expecting what exactly? I wonder what happened in the end. Judging from the lack of water in the bowl even after a night of rain, someone must have found the bowl in the morning and thrown fish and water in the sea, I guess.
This episode, more than anything else, served to illustrate for me how Itsumi lets passively life take her wherever, with no resistance, taking no responsibility and no deliberate action. It was spelled out several times throughout the book, but I felt it here stronger than anywhere else for some reason. In this sense, (おいしいごはん mild spoiler) she is exactly like the protagonist of おいしひいごはん. Different people in different situations, exact same lack of agency.
Was this a sex scene? An almost sex scene, rather. In any case, she’s moved closer to accepting her husband as he is than ever before. I looked up あかたろう, the story really does exist.
Section 27 (the end)
I don’t understand why the whole book was spoiled in the summary, I really don’t. Thinking back to the fish story, is her husband just like that fish that she left near the river until he/it disappeared? Was she as negligent in taking care of her husband as she was of the fish? Were they now alive and free, or had they suffered a horrible end? Were they at least happy in their freedom at their last moment (if indeed they’re dead)? Is Itsumi as innocent and well-intentioned as she wants to believe? How much of what happened to them was her responsibility?
Itsumi was one of those people who have an internal narrator in their brain, commenting on their every thought and action, constantly criticizing and second-guessing. The result is that she was always watching herself as if she was a stranger (“I’m running to the river in slippers, I must love him, that’s a relief. Wait, how can I be relieved at a moment like this? I must be horrible” ). This feels very familiar to me. Not sure I’d seen it in a character in a book before.
What now? Is Itsumi mourning her husband? Is she still frantically searching for him? Is she secretly relieved? Indifferent? Will she move back to Tokyo? Will she stay there? Who will make decisions for her now?
As for her husband, I’m thinking he just really wanted to be free of his previous life, and as close to nature as possible. He was happy living near the river, swimming in there every day. Maybe he was happy as he was carried away by the violent waters. He must have had a warning. From the moment rain starts to fall until the river swells, it’s not just seconds surely. Maybe he entered the rough waters on purpose. Maybe that’s exactly what he wanted for himself, to be one with that water in the end.