Thursday, 25 April 2013

Real World


Before posting on a new translation that's due out next month, (Murakami's From the Fatherland with Love - although it appears to be available now), thought I'd read a couple of older titles that I've been intending to read. Real World, translated by Philip Gabriel is the first of Natsuo Kirino' novels that I've read, the most recent title of hers to appear in translation is The Goddess Chronicle which I'd like to read in the future. Reading Nakagami Kenji's story Jain/Snakelust the reader might find themselves contemplating what might have happened to Jun after he went on the run after committing patricide, in Real World we are given the full sequence of events and consequences of a similar crime. The chapters of the book narrate the unfolding of the story as it progresses each told from differing perspectives from different characters, one of the main characters, Toshi, sometimes uses a fake name, so chapters/perspectives also appear from her under her adoptive name, Ninna Hori. Toshi adopts this name to wrong foot the leaders of her cram class, to see them get something wrong when ticking her off their lists, her feeling prevails throughout the novel that young people are there to be used and exploited to substantiate the adults Raison d'être. The event at the centre of the novel is a matricide committed by Toshi's neighbour Ryo, or Worm as she has nicknamed him, stealing Toshi's bike with her mobile phone in the basket brings Worm into contact with the small tightknit group of Toshi's friends, as each member of her friends responds differently to Worm the groups relationship and understanding of each other is explored and depicted in detail.
The scope of Real World is much broader than that of being a straight forward crime story, it examines the way parents relate and communicate with their children, the pressures they are under and endure, through each portrait or observation of the students that any of the characters describe there usually comes with it descriptions of copious amounts of cramming study to improve their chances of getting into the desired or most elite university. The book also delves deeply into examining the psychology of the murderer, on the run cycling around in the intense heat, Worm begins to take on the psychology of a wartime soldier, as at the beginning of his narrative he recounts seeing on t.v a Japanese soldier being beaten for suspectedly participating in war crimes, later when he attempts to kidnap one of the gang he associates with Mishima, but even these adopted psychological states malfunction, when Kirarin reveals his true weaknesses to him.
Reading the novel at various points I couldn't help from contemplating it in other ways, as the main characters are largely a group of high school girls, the temptation to reconfigure the characters and switch the main, (?, it could be said that the main protagonist shifts from chapter to chapter), protagonist, Worm, into a woman and then switch the girls to boys threw up a lot of different thoughts and alternative perspectives. At each turn in the story and through each of the chapters the groups members found themselves constantly reassessing their knowledge of each other and at the novels end saw them addressing and appropriating the potential guilt and blame that each of them felt, for two of the group meet a tragic end. Locating the real world in the book is a difficult endeavour, the characters in turn find themselves either exiting it or through the novel's sequences arriving at it, reading the novel felt like submerging yourself temporarily into a pressurized chamber. It's a book that grabs you by the lapels, the way in which the murder and murderer is discussed in a matter of fact manner was unsettling and initially Worm is revered, his crime seems to represent a perforation in the desensitised world that the students exist in, the novel sees it's characters revaluate themselves and each other at each turn of events that spin out beyond their control, a disturbing and painful rite of passage.  
Real World at Random House 

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