I started 2021 with a Japanese author, Taichi Yamada, and his short novel In search of a distant voice.
The novel is a fantastic story of a man, Tsuneo, who is caught in late 20th century Tokyo, Japan, with all its customs, good or bad, and also caught in a bleak history, which circles around him all the time, not allowing him to get past and get a normal life.
Tsuneo is working at the immigration office, catching illegal immigrants in Japan. It all starts one day, when he loses a criminal, by experiencing intense erotic emotions, culminating with an spontaneous orgasm, that makes him feel very vulnerable and ashamed.
Things continue when he starts to hear a woman’s voice, who wants to communicate with him, at first slowly, with a few words, but with time, the bond is stronger.
We see a strong motif, with higher impact in modern Japan, the one of solitude and craziness. Tsuneo is very lonely, has one single friend, and most of his time is dedicated to work. People around him though, want to help him, and even his office’s director fights to find him a suitable girl for marriage.
While preparing his traditional wedding, with a woman he has no feelings for, after just four meetings; he continues to discuss with the distant voice, the distant woman, at first he is reluctant to believe it, gets mad, ignores her, tries to drive her away, but eventually realizes that the only other being in the world that is close to him, or appears to understand him, is this far away entity, woman, voice, or his own imagination.
The distant woman is able to inflict very powerful feelings for Tsuneo, and manages to ruin his wedding ceremony, by making him uncontrollably laugh, then cry, which makes people consider him totally rude and cancel the wedding completely, and his future wife to be hastily sells the rings and starts to find another catch for herself.
Tsuneo gets closer to the woman, and in the end he decides to tell her his life story, as a young student and immigrant to the United States, where is taken in by an older man, who forces and sodomizes him, eventually to be killed in an action that is caused by Tsuneo himself.
He wants to meet the woman, and she plays with him, proposing various meeting places, makes him run around and chase her, but she does not reveal herself. He touches him after she blinds him, but we cannot really know if she is real or again, part of his imagination.
Tsuneo banishes her, and for six months, she hears her no more. His life is in a downward path, he takes treatment, and after six months, she claims to finally meet him. At the meeting point he meets a blind girl, who was payed by a woman to meet him, the first and only real thing that makes the woman believable.
Tsuneo is subject to a fantastic experience, which looks to be a connection beyond time and space, to an entity that appears to give evidence of existence, which completely turns his world upside down.
An interesting novel, about extrasensorial perceptions, In search of distant voice is about loneliness, fulfillment, the place of man in society, the pain of compliance, the eternal search for happiness and accomplishment.