by Yasutaka Tsutsui
Populated by murderers, adulterers, teenage thugs and yakuza gangsters Japanese Hell is a complex place where one relives misdemeanours of the past over an over again and where one undergoes penance for the crimes that have been committed in ones lifetime. At first some of our protagonists are not sure that they are actually dead until they realise that limbs that they had lost have become re-attached, that they can read each otherís minds or can summon up people that they are simply thinking about. Itís a disturbing read and Tsutsuiís Hell is nothing like the whimsical (but weird) afterworld in the cult Japanese animated film Spirited Away.
Tsutsuiís writing style is poetic, graphic and often very funny - the fact that one of the characters, Izumi, is a best-selling novelist is testimony to the authorís wit. When the plane heís travelling on is sky-jacked and everyone on board knows they are about to die, Izumi screams, ďDamn that Murakami! Damn that Maeda! They think they can take over the board when Iím dead! Iíll come back and haunt them!Ē
Hell is disquieting and surreal and engagement with its protagonists is difficult but itís worth the effort for its downright weirdness and the extraordinary writing style. Acknowledgement must also go to Evan Emswiler whose translation brought this astonishing book to life (well, actually, death in this case).
Yasutaka Tsutsui is a novelist, science fiction author, and actor born in Osaka. He is one of the most famous science fiction writers in Japan. In 1997, he was decorated as a Chevalier Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.