In Search of a Distant Voice
|In Search of a Distant Voice|
|Publisher||Faber & Faber|
|Publication date||6 April 2006|
|Dewey Decimal||895.635 22|
|LC Classification||PL865.A5128 T6513 2006|
In Search of a Distant Voice is a novel by Japanese writer Taichi Yamada. It was first published in Japan in 1986, and was translated for English-language publication in 2006 by Michael Emmerich. The novel seems to be an elaboration on the dangers of emotional repression in Japanese society, of the suppression of personality. It warns against emotional subjugation, and demonstrates forms of intense emotional protests in the events which happen to the protagonist.
Kasama Tsuneo is a young Japanese immigration officer, mid-way through the preparations for an arranged marriage. While raiding a house in the early-morning hours, one immigrant escapes and Tsuneo takes chase through a neighbouring graveyard. As Tsuneo thinks he has the escapee cornered, he is overcome by a huge wave of euphoric emotion. Paralyzed by it, he's immobile and the suspect escapes. Tsuneo recovers, completely perplexed. To his bosses he explains that the suspect tripped him and ran away.
That same night, on the verge of sleep, he is again flooded by a huge wave of paralyzing emotion, this time sadness. As it passes, he hears a female voice saying "Who are you?" in the darkness, which then disappears. Over the next days, Tsuneo starts to hear this voice more, and eventually it responds to him and he begins a dialogue with it. It claims to be the voice of a woman, very lonely, and that with all her energy she somehow "projected" herself into the world, and Tsuneo was the one to answer. Initially Tsuneo thinks it is the voice of "Eric", someone he knew whilst living in America, but in time accepts that this is not so. Tsuneo becomes increasingly fascinated by the voice and their dialogues, and wonders whether he is suffering from auditory hallucinations. Because of his erratic behaviour, he is given time off work and must see a doctor. His arranged marriage is also called off for similar reasons.
As the voice continues to speak to him, he asks that he may tell her his story, which has been hinted at throughout. Tsuneo tells the voice how, after his permit runs out in America, he narrow escapes being caught by immigration officials, and one day meets Eric in a city square. Forty-something Eric seems to take pity on Tsuneo, and offers him a job in his shop selling light fittings, and lodgings. However, as time goes by Eric makes passes at Tsuneo, who, definitely opposed but unsure of how to rebuff Eric - who in any case has been so kind - passively submits to Eric's wishes. Tsuneo desperately wishes to escape the relationship, but can see no way out. He attempts to escape under the guise of "taking a short break to the sea", but Eric questions why he is taking his passport, and is forced to leave it behind. Instead, while on his trip Tsuneo makes a hoax call to the police, claiming that Eric is in possession of and dealing a large amount of drugs. Tsuneo hopes that while eric is detained and questioned, he will have a window to escape the country and get back to Japan. However, when the police try to take Eric in there is an accident and Eric is killed.
A while after Tsuneo has related his story to the voice, he asks if the woman behind the voice will meet with him. She reluctantly agrees, and they set a date and time. However when Tsuneo goes to meet her she is not there, and only leads him down the garden path. Tsuneo is angry with her. She is hurt but apologizes, and says that she will contact him again in 6 months time. If at that time he still wishes to meet her, despite her claim she is unimaginably ugly, then she will concede.
Six months pass, during which Tsuneo still has bouts of intense and irrational emotion, sadness and happiness reminiscent of bipolar disorder. When the voice contacts him again, he does still wish to meet, and a time is set at which to meet her outside a museum. When Tsuneo goes to the museum at the appointed time, the voice directs him towards a tree, behind which a blind girl of about eighteen stands. When she speaks, "Hello Mr Kasama", Tsuneo knows he has been misled again, and expresses his anger towards the voice. It tells him that in future whenever he thinks of her he must remember her in the form of this girl. This is the last Tsuneo hears of the voice. The blind girl tells him that a month beforehand, an 'honest' sounding woman paid her 10,000 yen to stand here, at this time, to wait for a Mr Kasama.