Thursday, 9 November 2017

Territory of Light - The Magic Words

September's chapter of Territory of Light is entitled The Magic Words, perhaps the briefest installment so far to the book which is published in full in April 2018. An aspect that is prominent in the chapter is of the introspectiveness of the narrator as she cross examines her feelings about finding herself a mother, this cross examination is provoked when her daughter has a bout of nocturnal crying and a period of bed wetting, reading her feelings, any mother, (and no doubt any father), who has experienced parental fatigue will associate with the narrator's thoughts and self doubts. The narrator's endurance is pushed to the limits which see's her resorting to drink in an attempt to get a full night's sleep, her feelings for her daughter spin through a whole 360 degrees, from dangerous resentment back to love again, for a moment she observes the similarities between her daughter and her husband Fujino.

Throughout the book there's been a sense of the narrator making attempts to get on top of her thoughts and feelings and rein things under control, in The Magic Words the borders between work and motherhood blur when she has to leave abruptly to return home as her daughter is unexpectedly picked up from school by Fujino, which brings an underlying struggle throughout the book to the fore, the vexed problem of custody of their daughter, something that hangs over the book that will probably remain unsolved by it's end. The Magic Words is a chapter again that stands on it's own, feeling self contained, a little piece from the previous chapter continues on into this, the goldfish from the August festival dies, which feels like a symbolic addition to some of the themes that hover in this chapter.

Although brief The Magic Words continues to keep balance between both being able to disturb and reassure, perhaps there's something of a mantra at the heart of this chapter which is the phrase 'Itaino, itaino tondeke' which is told to Japanese children at hurtful moments which roughly translates as pain, pain go away, and we wonder as the narrator tells it to her daughter the phrase carries a certain reverberation, is she saying it solely to her daughter, or herself?, or perhaps to us, the moment echoes.

Territory of Light at Penguin Classics


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