Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Triangle by Hisaki Matsuura

Forthcoming from Dalkey Archive Press, Triangle is translated by David Karashima, it could be said that it could be added to the slowly growing number of titles that feature the presence of two celestial globes, although Triangle predates another well known one, (Murakami's 1Q84), by some years, it seems that perhaps the presence of two moons or two suns could become the common motif of novels with characters that find themselves caught in alternative realities, maybe one of the earliest appearances of this could be in The Invention of Morel by the Argentine novelist Adolfo Bioy Casares which was published in 1940. Perhaps the protagonist of Triangle, Otsuki, doesn't find himself in an alternative reality in a literal sense, but does find himself becoming embroiled in dark circles which he struggles to comprehend across this at times unsettling novel.

With an unsettling film at its centre the narrative style of Triangle also feels in places cinematic and could perhaps be described as being a blending of somewhere between Yamada Taichi and the darker side of Murakami Ryu, much of the novel is situated in Tokyo's Taitō District in particular San'ya, a notoriously rough and rundown area. Otsuki is a rather dissolute character, a recovering drug addict, who on returning home one night encounters an old acquaintance, Sugimoto, standing out in the street in only his boxers and vest, (this rather enigmatic incidence is returned to later in the novel and given it's fuller and darker context), through Sugimoto's insistence and the offer of easy work Otsuki is introduced to Koyama, an older man whom Otsuki begins to understands is a renowned calligrapher whose home is labyrinthine with glass panelling and conservatory, at first Otsuki imagines that he is needed to act as a translator into French, but Koyama shows him a film that he has been working on. The film is experimental in nature, a young woman or teenager is seen having sex with an older man, these scenes are cut and interposed with close up images of various insects, later Otsuki is introduced to the young woman as being Koyama's granddaughter, Tomoe, Otsuki is propositioned with completing the film.

To degrees the novel's concerns could be seen as being about the fabric of identity, over the course of the book and through scenes of violent intimidation and torture, at the hands of Koyama's brutal henchman, Takabatake, who also turns out to be the man in the film with Tomoe, Otsuki is faced with re-constructing and de-constructing his own identity, in the past he had burnt out in a normal 9 to 5 job, but finds himself unable to live with the alternatives and finds himself seeking again the reliable safety, albeit the emptiness of this kind of existence. Another interesting aspect to the novel is some of the parallels going on subtly with the narratives, Otsuki's voice is that of the contemporary man and his dilemmas, the extremes that he faces in the novel represent in a way extremes that the age faces, counter to his is Koyama's, the elder established man, in another way Koyama, who we believe at first to be a darkly cultivated aesthete offers the deeper, although much darker, philosophical voice, added to this the narrative poses some post-modernist musing about the fallible nature of representation in the arts. Throughout the novel, Otsuki is caught between two women, Hiroko, a married woman who he is a having an affair with who offers to leave her husband for him and also, Tomoe, the central and most enigmatic character of the novel, (there are at times rumours of levitation), whom Otsuki becomes increasingly infatuated with. Otsuki finds himself filming in San'ya above Takabatake's shop which in places is a curiously laid out and reconstructed replica of Koyama's house.

The threads of the novel begin to come together, or perhaps untogether when Hiroko's husband begins to drop clues after her disappearance, pursuing Otsuki over an incriminating ledger filled with names and also begins to fill in the blanks concerning Koyama whose past holds the truth to his assumed identity, Hiroko's past as well is not what Otsuki believed it to be and forges links to places he'd rather not acknowledge. Dalkey Archive describe Triangle as a moral tale gone wrong, and the darkness here seems to swamp the light, it fuses and defuses in almost equal measure, unnervingly, rather than concluding it seems to point to further darkness, further corruptions and whilst reading it provokes questions on the dilemma of how modern or contemporary novels might depict or mirror the contemporary world that create them.

Triangle at Dalkey Archive 


No comments: