Sunday, 27 August 2017

Territory of Light - A Dream of Birds

July's chapter of Territory of Light feels shot through with disarming vagueness and the sense that things being unformed hangs over the chapter, what with two dream sequences and a drunken scene it's none too surprising. Entitled A Dream of Birds the chapter opens with the recollections of a dream, where the narrator is being reprimanded for shoddy work in a calligraphy class, in the dream the man appears drunk and overheated, the narrator takes some relief from being able to cool him down with a dampened towel, making sure the dabbing is not too hard, not too soft, there's an erotic undercurrent to this action, which feels in a way out of place. The man represents a composite of numerous male figures that the narrator fails to ascertain any tangible connection with, this figure of the male is enough to hint at forming a multifaceted impression of male identities in general. In as much as the chapter feels slightly directionless this adds to the impression that the narrator is caught in a state of limbo of her life being up in the air and unsettled, again there are references to the social stigma of being a divorcee or that of being on the cusp of becoming one.

Another central scene of the chapter is that after ensuring her daughter is tucked in bed asleep she has to escape the confines of the apartment to find some release, going for a drink, in a nearby bar she half recognises a woman whose paths they have shared, before she knows it too many drinks are consumed and in a state she heads back to the apartment, where she is accosted by her estranged husband Fujino outraged by her behaviour, the scene is explosive and it feels that the ramifications of it may resurface later. Although in this chapter it feels things are up in the air for the narrator, in some of the chapters scenes appear sometimes non sequential within the larger unfolding story being referenced again later, the undercurrent remaining theme of women's suffrage is a unifying one, towards the end of the chapter it's seen skipping across the three generations of the story's protagonists, the narrator, her mother and her daughter, briefly arising, or envisioned through the figure of an old woman.

As were heading towards the halfway mark of the novel, each of the chapters are more or less 10 pages, in this chapter, as in the previous ones, Geraldine Harcourt's translation feels pitch perfect, the nuances and concerns in the narrator's voice are conveyed in lucid prose and the deeper concerns of the novel are held at a comparative distance for contemplative reflection, which will continue on in August's chapter - The Sound of a Voice. Repeated thanks go to Penguin for providing advanced reading chapters of this book which is published in it's entirety in 2018.    

Territory of Light at Penguin Classics

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