Senji Kuroi’s A Day in the Life at Nihon Distractions

It’s been difficult deciding which of Dalkey Archive’s latest books published in their Japanese Literature series to go for first, but something about the slightly enigmatic presentation of Senji Kuroi’s A Day in the Life, pulled me towards it. Translated from the Japanese – 一日 夢の柵 by Giles Murray, the cover of the book describes it as a novel, but turning curiously to the inside pages we’re presented with A Day in the Life, and Other Stories, faced with the presentation this way around you’d have to surmise that the, and Other Stories comes as a subheading to the novel. A Day in the Life comes as twelve portraits of events of a day seen from the perspective of an elderly man, there are some linking scenes and motifs amongst the stories, these are mainly in the form of appointments with doctors, medical centre waiting rooms and medical examinations. The links are not explicitly done, but they remain there in the corner of the reader’s field of thought to the degree that after finishing each of the chapters you have to pause momentarily and ponder on the scenes that might have potentially formed links. In some of these stories you get the sense that the full disclosure of the story is left open ended and that the ending scenes of one story maybe described in more detail in the succeeding ones. Most of the stories revolve or start from observations of commonplace and unassuming events of the everyday, but scrupulously convey how normality is a country we take for granted. There’s an aspect to Kuroi’s writing which carries an understated ability to represent certain associations or events and leave it to the reader to decipher, events unfold sometimes in an unrelated way which can lead the characters into uncharted territory. In the story Marunouchi the discovery of a telephone number written on a piece of a paper found deep in the pocket of a seldom worn coat leads to an encounter of an enigmatic meeting with a woman whose identity has eluded the protagonists memory, after the meeting normality reverts so quickly that makes the reader wonder if the meeting had actually occurred.

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