Thursday, 4 January 2018

Territory of Light - Red Lights

Red Lights is November's chapter of Territory of Light by Yuko Tsushima, translated by Geraldine Harcourt and is published in April by Penguin Classics. Much like the previous chapters Red Lights feels a very self contained narrative, each of the chapters have the feeling of being a short story within themselves, although there remains small pointers to the larger story unfolding, that of the narrator in the process of separating from and divorcing her husband. Red Lights sees the appearance of another new character, Sugiyama, who for a time was privately tutored by her husband, Fujino, Sugiyama is one amongst a select few who the narrator had given a change of address card to, the relationship on the whole feels platonically innocent although they fall asleep listening to each other's heartbeats, Sugiyama also displays having a rapport with the narrator's daughter.

A repeating aspect arising in Red Lights is of the narrator's struggle balancing work/childcare and home life, often finding herself either late for work or taking her daughter to daycare, her daughter becomes to be a topic of concern when the carers thwart an attempt by her to severe a younger attendee's ear off with a pair of scissors, has her daughter's behaviour disintegrated since their separation? is it a symptom of it?, the narrator wonders. Similar also to previous chapters there is an element of dreamscapes featuring in the narrative, Red Lights opens with another, of the narrator finding herself in search of a missing person, and of being in a vehicle, the details remain vague, it's clarity out of reach, feeling both provocative and premonitory.

Throughout the chapters there has sometimes appeared small connections that exist between them, characters appearing briefly and the reader's never too certain which of these might turn out to be a permanent fixture and what the outcome of their influence might be, Kawachi from the previous chapter appears again toward the end of Red Lights, the narrator sees him with his child and wife which causes an episode of self scrutiny in her.

What is an interesting riddle to most of these chapters is their titles, with Red Lights the reader is tempted to think that the reveal or point of explanation was going to come at the beginning amidst the dreamscape, Red Lights feels like it might emerge there, although Tsushima leaves it to the final page to unlock the mystery of it's title again in a moving poetical, perhaps metaphorically way when enroute to work the narrator's train experiences hitting a female suicide and there is the stain of red berries fallen from a tree, which again is a moving allegory. The narrator becomes embroiled contemplating the suicide's motives and feelings, this desire to understand feels similar to that of her desire of searching for the missing person amongst her dream at the opening of the story, in a mirrored culmination, and the reader finishes the story in awe again at Tsushima's prose.

Territory of Light at Penguin Classics


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