Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Darkness in Summer by Takeshi Kaiko

It seems incredible that five years have slipped by since reading the two stories Panic/Runaway by Kaiko Takeshi and now finishing Darkness in Summer provides a great prompt to move onto tracking out a copy of Five Thousand Runaways and also the book that he is largely well known for Into a Black Sun: Vietnam 1964-65, which as is Darkness in Summer translated by Cecilia Segawa Seigle. Looking at my old hardback copy from Peter Owen the adage of 'never judge a book by it's cover' comes to mind, and also the contemplation that some books can suffer from issues over presentation, maybe this one has. The jacket of the novel bears a portrait of a woman with hair done up in geisha style which is superimposed over the portrait of Sakutaro Hagiwara by Onochi Koshiro, which feels slightly out of place and perhaps misplaces the contextualisation of the novel which first appeared in 1972 as Natsu no yami. For most readers perhaps it's instrumental that there is some form of correlation between a book cover and it's contents, themes, settings and characters, and that the two go hand in hand to form an aide to visualizing the novel that it's meant to represent, that said this is an old edition, the book now is only available as POD and the cover seems leaning toward the functionary.

Darkness in Summer published four years after Into a Black Sun feels that it maybe a continuation of that novel, the main drama of Darkness in Summer is that the main character, a journalist, is continuing a relationship with a Japanese woman after a separation of some years, set predominately in Berlin, and then there's another relocation. The narrative style evades detail, it's not late in the novel before Saigon is mentioned by name, episodes from the past drift in and out of the present, the opium taking, the violence, there are abstract summaries on the nature of existence and being juxtaposed with scenes of graphic sex. Having a broader panoramic to either Panic or Runaway, the novel though primarily revolves around the two main characters, with few additional characters, Professor Steinkopf, the visits to Professor Chao's restaurant, there's a close proximity to these two characters who are caught at a crossroads in their lives, with their sometime nicknames of Little Bird and Little Turd. After completing her dissertation and his life after reporting of the Vietnam war their future remains precariously balanced with uncertainty, the relationship fraught with equal fragility. An aspect of her character that brought to mind a more recent character of Natsuki Ikezawa's in mariko/mariquito is of her resolve of not wanting to return to Japan, he too displays traits of this.

It'll be interesting to read Into a Black Sun after Darkness in Summer to identify overlapping scenes, in places it feels that the narrator is visualizing previous episodes with the distant perspective of this novel, and obviously there are autobiographical links to Kaiko himself, the questioning of war, in places the subtle note of comparison between East and West . The control Kaiko has over his prose remains brilliantly conveyed in Cecilia Segawa Seigle's translation capturing the uncertainties of the novel's characters and their angst ridden sensuality, the fishing trip, the vistas of the ebbing and rising effect of the narrator's observations of the novel's progressions only to be brought down in a crescendo of self recrimination and doubt nearing it's culmination. There are a few reoccurring motifs to the novel, one of these is the central character's use of the German word abendrot - afterglow and it feels apt to the novel as the character's are caught in the afterglow of the past perhaps they are fated to return to it.     




Unknown said...

you can read five thousand runaways on

me. said...

Ah ok, will probably stay with a physical copy though as I struggle to read full books online. Thanks for the comment .