Thursday, 5 October 2017

Slow Boat by Hideo Furukawa

As mention of another batch of titles in Pushkin's Japanese novellas begins to appear on the horizon time remains to catch up with another of the initial books, Hideo Furukawa's Slow Boat, translated by David Boyd. In the books Linear Notes Furukawa explains that the story is essentially a remix, or a cover version of the Murakami Haruki story, there are displays of the usual Murakami motifs, the jazz track - On a Slow Boat to China by Sonny Rollins, the boku narrator, and also the inclusion of multiple narrative voices. The story has the feel of a Bildungsroman, in places it also resembles  Murakami Ryu's 69. Aside from being sent to a summer camp for wayward kids at the story's opening, a lot of the story plays out in Tokyo's Suginami Ward, and as Furukawa's narrator circumnavigates the possible peripheries of the city, (who knows where they begin and end?), and it's potential escape routes the narrative moves amongst an anonymous hotel room, descriptions of the details of furnishings and contents, Furukawa's narrative questions visual spaces alongside emotional progress and the two merge convincingly. These hotel scenes and the Sonny Rollins track gain greater clarity and poignancy in the closing scenes, the book is made up of rather than chapters but boats, Boat 1, Boat 2, etc.

Despite it's brevity the pace of the prose is pitch perfect, for a while we skip between episodes of recounting past girlfriends and additional narrative interludes, or chronicles, provided by Kaku Nohara, glimpsing into the events of lost years, 1994, Y2K giving the main narrative a broader context and perspective, the two overlap, a memorable scene of the narrator loosing it on a packed commuter train after being given an ultimatum from a departing girlfriend in pursuit of her destiny, that is one of many here, the name of his restaurant being decided after a misreading is another. At the end of the book you're left contemplating differences, Furukawa's prose here is faster paced, feels more edgier, more in your face, although remaining a homage with a lot of respect and originality.

Slow Boat at Pushkin Press 


Tony Malone said...

Absolutely loved this one, and I hope Pushkin commit to many more in this series :)

me. said...

Really enjoyed this, see there are two more listed for next year, one of them an Akutagawa Prize winner, so things to look forward to.