Thursday, 24 June 2010

Clear Water

Clear Water/Shimizu, (2003) by Hirano Keiichiro draws some parallels with Kajii Motojiro's story Lemon, where the protaganist wanders the streets of Kyoto, although the preoccupying thoughts of the two narrators differ markedly. Clear Water opens with the narrator hearing the sound of clear water dripping somewhere, and he has the feeling that something is happening to him, memories,'of a sun long ago, a memory of a day when the gigantic sun that covered everything over our heads drew away from us', it feels like he could be referring to some distant apocalypse, adding that 'In tears I gazed futilely at the scene,on and on'. But he's unable to decipher if the memory might have come from a movie, or something he thought up for a novel, and he contemplates 'Is there such a thing as an indubitable memory?', whilst drinking coffee and eating cookies he sifts through which of his senses seem to offer up the the best evidence of proving the existence of the cookie in his hand.

Looking out of the window he observes 'Sure enough the sun was scattering more fiercely than ever', walking out down Shimogawa Avenue he encounters some people, a woman sweeping leaves, a couple leafing through a guidebook, these people turn into sounds and vanish,the sound he says sounds like a splitting sound, thinking about were they might be vanishing to he thinks of his own death, 'But one day I realized that my own death had long since been lost in time' 'The spot were the drip lands is none other than death-but how to reach that point?', at each realization he arrives at....another drip, he observes. In Kitaoji Street more people he sees vanish with the same sound, and crossing the road he notes the stream of traffic. Coming to a halt at the Kamo River, he's mesmerised by the sunlight reflecting on the water's surface, 'I was crazed by the falling petals of sun', vision and sound begin to merge and watching the reflecting/scattering light he feels his sense of hearing contract, and is overcome by an encompassing silence, but his vision gains a lucid clarity as he watches cherry blossom petals as they drift down and fall on the water's surface.'Just as my hearing searches for a sound in the silence,my vision found it's way only as far as the expanding light', he wonders off down Kitayama Avenue,finding himself in Shichiku Street, he discovers an explanantion of his observations in a revelation. Clear Water/Shimizu is translated by Anthony H.Chambers and is in the anthology The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature:1945 to the Present, published by CUP, Hirano Keiichiro won the Akutagawa Prize for his novel Solar Eclipse/Nisshoku,a novel set in France just prior to the Renaissance.

Hirano Keiichiro (Japanese)

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