Friday, 20 May 2016

Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure

Perhaps on a first reading of Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure, what first remains is a sense of distance imparted to the reader, although written and published in the immediate months after the disaster that hit Fukushima and the North East in 2011, Furukawa's blend of fiction and non-fiction, travelogue and memoir creates a space for contemplation and presents various perspectives of narrative, early on in the book the phrase 'use imagination for the good' reaches out and stays with the reader. With it's blend of voices Horses, Horses searches out for the narratives not found in official history books in an attempt to reclaim and present the authentic, there is a fascinating use of allegory within Furukawa's telling of the history of the horses associated with the area of the North East, in particular with Soma City which carries within it's name the word horse, reading this allegory and the way Furukawa has structured this element of the book brought to mind Julian Barnes's A History of the World in Ten and 1/2 Chapters, which similarly presents an alternate allegorical perspective of history. Furukawa pinpoints two figures from medieval Japan, Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Oda Nobunaga in his observations of historical paths.

The main branch of narrative of Horses, Horses is of Furukawa caught between writing projects and of the sequence of the events of the disaster unfolding, his personal history of this period is examined and then returned to when being both in and outside of Japan. This proceeds with him and colleagues from his publishers hiring a car to travel to the area to see how close they can go, (the slowly enlarging red circles of the exclusion zones feature), Furukawa toys with the notion of exposing himself to the radiation, and confronts suicidal feelings unexpectedly arising that he assumed he had over come in his youth. There's a measured economy to the prose, the reader very much gets the sense that although with the literary experimentation, the dipping into fiction and non-fiction, (in places in a talking direct to the camera type of way, with the appearance of a character from one of his novels in the car that they are travelling in), Furukawa is not attempting to place words where they cannot be placed, it very much feels that apprehension is never too distant from the surface.

Along the way there are number of names referenced, one of the first being The Beatles in particular their songs Strawberry Fields and Tomorrow Never Knows, with it's screeching sound at it's beginning which sounds similar to that of the squawk of a gull, poetically evocative of being at the coast and in a way a warning cry. A number of Japanese writers are mentioned, in particular Miyazawa Kenji and Nakagami Kenji, both writers Furukawa obviously has an affinity and strongly identifies with, similar themes and motifs appear in their works, animals, and the sense of alternate histories being written and born out of alternative myth. Another aspect that appears whilst reading the book is a rather pensive sense of apprehension and fear, this is highlighted in the quote that Furukawa borrows from Nakagami, and Furukawa later examines this fascination of dates - 3.11 - 9.11, and of how these events cannot be confined to a single day, although the book has the subtitle - A Tale That Begins With Fukushima, it also feels that it resembles a memoir of an approach. Throughout these narratives there are incidences of subtle poetical examinations of the second part of it's title - that of light and in one place the prose arrives at a stop and Furukawa turns to poetry to express himself. Throughout it's various modes of narrative Horses, Horses moves and posits questions in equal measure.

Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure, translated by Doug Slaymaker and Akiko Takenaka is available via Columbia University Press

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