Friday, September 24, 2010

Vibrator by Mari Akasaka














Originally published in 1999 in Japan by Kodansha, the translation by Michael Emmerich was published by Faber & Faber (U.K) in 2005,and then by Soft Skull Press (U.S) in 2007. I read the Faber edition when it came out, and then recently after seeing the film directed by Ryuichi Hiroki I wanted to re-read this novella. The first time I read it I sped through it too quickly, and although being only 130 pages it didn't take too long this time around, but this time I took my time. Hearing a tangle of voices in her head, Rei browses through the products of a convenience store on a snowy Tokyo night, thinking over her job as a journalist, Rei seems to be caught between her feelings of being completely alienated with all that she sees around her with that of wanting to find some release from the loops of voices she hears in her head, the swirling of the voices are silenced when her thoughts turn to a man in the shop. Leaving the shop, she soon finds herself in the cabin of the man's truck, 'Being here is like being in this man's womb'.

The relationship between Rei and Okabe, (the truck driver) is full of perplexities, their relationship doesn't seem to advance from their first meeting, although they have sex, there's not much of the confessional between them during their conversations, Akasaka seems to evoke the emotional territory between the two without probing it in detail, much could be read in the unwritten. Okabe talks of a stalker he had attracted, he got a call from an ambulance when the woman had attempted suicide,she had given them his number, Rei being a journalist records what he says on a tape recorder, which she relistens to. Rei finds herself sometimes smiling incredulously at what she's doing, other times she scans the cabin for exit routes if need be, but her attraction to Okabe over rides her fears, as she enters the world of the long distance trucker, the constantly changing landscape which she watches almost like the images of a film, listening in on the static and random voices over the radio, which parallel with her earlier world of voices, she listens as the voices seem to be reduced to morse code.Memories from an experience with a school teacher seem to unbalance Rei further after finding a brief respite from her voices 'Suddenly I understood why the voices were silent - it was because they felt safe.The vibrations had broken them down into the elements out of which they were originally composed;they no longer existed in the form of language'. The film has a different ending to the book, the novel finishes with Rei finding a slight control, although the feeling that this brief episode in her life is transitory.   



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