Good chapter. We get to meet both mysterious characters of this whole saga in one go: Hisako and the interviewer. pm215 had it right: the whole investigation we’d been following had been triggered by the brother’s suicide letter. The rest also seems to be more or less how we pictured it (minus wild twin theories). Hisako can change the impression she’s giving off at will, and goes from innocent to pure evil in seconds. And it’s been the constant noise that’s been driving her crazy. Committing mass murder for the sake of silence - I love the mundanity of the reason, and the cold-bloodedness of her manipulation. (someone had asked who she could possibly trust to ask them to burn down a house - there’s our answer: people who no one else would trust or pay any attention to )
What I’m mostly confused about is who’s point of view we’re reading. Most of the book has been from the point of view of the interviewer, listening to people’s answers. The detective’s first chapter, and the fragments chapter were the only exceptions (possibly also the files chapter, although the interviewer could be reading them). But in this chapter it gets blurrier. It starts normally enough, with the interviewer thinking and speaking, Hisako speaking, then it looks like we start getting Hisako’s point of view more and more. Those things about her waking up, reacting to the noise, thinking about what was to come, that didn’t look like something she said aloud. So was the chapter multiple points of view at once? Was the interviewer imagining those scenes? Did Hisako actually recount them?
Sorry, club, but there’s no way I’m waiting another week to finish the book now
Mmm. The book has been throwing in these other-point-of-view scenes for ages, generally flagged up by the third-person-pronouns. The first of these made sense because it was the extract from Saiga’s book, but from the first detective chapter on it’s been unclear to me what they were.
The “I didn’t actively do anything, is it a crime if I just didn’t say I suspected something was going to happen?” line from Hisako is interesting, given that we know from the brother’s letter in the preceding chapter that he basically did that.
I think that within any given chapter though, the point of view was specific (although I seem to remember writing about something like this before, so maybe not?). This time we’re presented with what seem to be Hisako’s private (and possibly past) thoughts, intermixed with the interviewer’s thoughts and actions occurring at the time of narration. Are these actual thoughts by Hisako, or in the interviewer’s imagination? Or is there something else going on?
I’ve noticed many such lines in the novel that would fit multiple characters. I really like how the lines of guilt are blurry, and how everyone seems to somehow feel complicit even if they objectively did nothing, or very little, wrong.
In some seriousness though, if you’re already blind surely you don’t want to deprive yourself of yet another sense. You just want it to not be constantly bombarded with unneeded information. I’m not saying the solution is to kill everyone in a two-mile radius, of course, but maybe earplugs wouldn’t have solved the problem either. Communicating her needs might have.
This would take the majority of my books on my shelf down to <10 pages. You can’t have people talk to each other otherwise from what conflict will you derive the plot?!
Although seriously, I think the writing style is supporting a rather weak story. I’m still happy to be reading it, but I think this book’s pull is due more to keeping you on your toes guessing what’s going on (something the English version seems to have removed? I hope it’s as fun for the English readers!) than providing an emotionally impactful story/mystery.
Keeping you on your toes and keeping you feeling uncomfortable is a big part of its draw, yes. But while it’s not much of a puzzle (at least not in a “wow, I never expected that person to be the murderer” kind of way), I don’t think it’s not emotionally impactful. I adored all the various points of view, how this one crime has affected so many people so differently, for so many years later. And I actually love the mundanity of the reasons behind it. It feels very real. Most real-world crimes have nothing to do with masterminds and genius detectives, they come from average people and little frustrations that build up, and while their origin may sound silly, their aftermath is anything but.
I agree with @omk3, I don’t think it’s necessarily a problem that “the obvious suspect did it”. This just isn’t that kind of book. On the contrary, the book has fun creating this mysterious eerie image of Hisako through the points of view of many characters, letting us speculate on her powers and motives… Until we finally meet her and she seems kinda normal? Like the interviewer, we can feel a bit disappointed. It’s not Hisako’s fault though that everybody makes her sound like so much more than she is. And as omk3 said it’s also a book about how mundane things can have a disproportionate impact on many people.
We kind of had an early echo of this too, with the description of how when the police announced that it was the delivery guy many people at the time felt somehow let down, like it ought to be more than that.
Hm, I don’t think I ever tried that in Japanese, besides some schoolchildren’s history books and stuff.
But I recently bought a non-fiction book written by Murakami Haruki (!). It’s about a gas terror attack in the Tokyo tube some time ago, and I figured that his writing style is hopefully easy enough to turn this into an ok reading experience, and that there is a good chance that he wasn’t able to sneak any weird sex scenes into such a book
OTOH it’s comprised of interviews, so that doesn’t exactly sound like “no spoken language”
Anyways, will report back when I get around to reading it.
I was going to say I didn’t read much non-fiction, but counting up I have at least made it into double figures for non-fiction books in Japanese. Of those, 日本語が亡びるとき: 英語の世紀の中で I liked in an “interesting argument which made me think but which I ultimately disagree with” way – it’s by a Japanese novelist who spent much of her early life in the US and she brings that perspective to her views on the rise and fall of serious Japanese literature. And speaking of Murakami, 翻訳夜話 is a collection of discussions between him and somebody else about the pleasures and difficulties of translation (including a short story that they both translate separately so you can compare).