Monday, 30 April 2018

Territory of Light - Flames

Flames is February's chapter of Territory of Light, the novel originally appeared in Japan in monthly installments and the book is now published in full in a translation by Geraldine Harcourt and reviews are beginning to appear for the complete novel, so I've tentatively tried to keep my eyes from reading them. Repeated thanks again go to Penguin for mailing out these monthly chapters, although perhaps a month or so out of sync its been interesting to pursue the narrator through her year and following her progress as she separates from her husband and finding herself bringing up and caring for her daughter whilst holding down her job, throughout the narratives in her writing the voices of Tsushima's characters feel imbued with a certain isolation, estranged from societal norms and buffeted by it's prejudices.

At the start of Flames the narrator observes the number of funerals in the area, and in spite of the cold she has the notion that in same way she herself is responsible or that she is linked to them, it's a strange link to contemplate and perhaps goes some way again, that arises throughout the course of the book of expressing the character's fragile feelings of hyper sensitivity. These deaths seem to come close to her with the death of her former boss, Kobayashi, amidst these observations the narrator falls prey to a heavy cold, and her daughter's angry fits surface again. Another episode of this fragility is when her daughter stays overnight at her friends, the narrator awakes in the middle of the night fearfully dreaming that she had lost her in town. Throughout the book reality and dream weave themselves through the narrative, and descriptions of mother and daughter caring for each other with their respective fevers and flu, we enter into a dream of the narrator's of a scene from school, although the students are grown up, inadvertently she exposes herself whilst changing and is chastised by the others, which seems to heighten again the sense the narrator has of being outcast, the dream ends with a rather listless erotic tone.

As with many of the other chapters, their names feel enigmatic at the initial outset and it's not until the end of Flames that things become apparent with the explosion of a nearby chemical factory, with this there feels for the narrator a certain sense of closure to the deaths at it's start, and again reading the book as a whole there's a sense of premonitions and signs cropping up throughout various moments in the book, scenes are pointedly imbued with portent. Without wanting to give everything away her husband, Fujino, makes contact and it'll be interesting to read the conclusion in the last chapter.

Territory of Light at Penguin


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