The writer Suzuki Tamaki is particularly impressed by the work of a famous writer from the 1950s, Midorikawa Mikio, entitled Innocence. The author narrates firsthand, with shocking realism, his story with lover X and the difficult relationship with his wife Chiyoko, until the death of their third-born child. This obsession with Innocence leads Tamaki to the decision to write a novel based on the theme of the “suppression of the love relationship”: that is, the “severing of any bond with the other out of personal will, and annihilating their heart through indifference, abandonment, and escape”. Tamaki gradually empathizes with X, creating an emotional bond with her, in sharing the common role of lover. In fact, she has forged a secret relationship with her editor Abe Seiji.
The search for X becomes the pivot around which revolves Tamaki’s new novel, entitled Indecency. To endow the story with a real voice it is therefore essential to deal with the women Midorikawa has touched during his life: a now elderly Ishikawa Motoko, the writer Miura Yumi (who died a few years earlier), Midorikawa’s wife Chiyoko, and their daughter Michiko.
Indecency. Invisibility. Innocence. Ineluctability. Inseparability. IN.
The highly recognizable style of Natsuo Kirino is characterized by a sharp pen and by the exceptional ability to outline the psychology of her characters. I feel confident in affirming that the female point of view prevails in all her works, and the analysis of impossible themes such as death, madness and jealous love is masterfully brought forward without falling into the stereotypes of yearning and the “already seen”.
It is also interesting to notice the way in which Kirino bounces us between the different versions of the same reality: each character who has had the opportunity to get in touch with Midorikawa provides their own truth, leaving us free to delineate sometimes an unscrupulous, self-centered and despicable man, sometimes a caring husband and a selfless parent. I say their “own” truth because not even these various witnesses are totally freed from lies, which are said to protect the characters from a past towards which they still feel resentment. Who is the real innocent in Midorikawa’s work? Chiyoko, the betrayed wife? The anonymous X, the mistreated lover? Or Midorikawa himself, victim of his own instincts? I like to think that it is Yōhei, the author’s third-born son, who drowned in shallow waters because of the carelessness of his parents, at a time when they seemed to reconcile.
I had my first encounter with Natsuo Kirino thanks to the novel OUT (I ed. 1997). I then continued reading her other novels, such as Grotesque (2003) and Soft cheeks (1999), all very compelling and not to be taken for granted: a different voice in the contemporary Japanese literary panorama, in which still dominates the inconsistency of Banana Yoshimoto and the dreamlike worlds of Murakami Haruki.
I admit, I got a little bored with IN. A theme that is not easy to develop, of course, but the episodes intertwine and overlap on the timeline of the novel in a disorienting way. Very few of Tamaki’s encounters are useful for the ultimate purpose of the novel. Commendable setting, smoky content.
Neri Pozza, Bloom
Italian translation by Gianluca Coci
2018 (I ed. 2009), pp. 376
Overall impression: ★★☆☆☆