I haven’t done a bookish post in forever, but I’ve just finished Death Sentences by Kawamata Chiaki, a book that was on my to-be-read list for an equally very long time, and just had to pen down a few thoughts. I love me a good sci-fi, and I’ve had some of the craziest, most immersive and just plain mind-bending adventures thanks to Japanese writers.
“through my experiments I eventually discovered the secret affinity obtaining between words and things”
What if reading a book could do… things to you? Like sending you to another… dimension? What if written words had the power to kill? Fascinating stuff really (and kinda in the vein of Ring but it leads down a very different path).
The story alternates between timelines and places (two of my all time favorite cities actually!). We see Paris – Montmartre, the cafes and its surrealist poets and authors – in the ’40s. Then there is Tokyo – our main setting with its publishing houses and a special division going after the mysterious texts – in the ’80s, and (maybe) even the Mars in the future. Or maybe it’s all hallucination… “dobaded” (yes, that was a word… or maybe something else? 😉
As you can probably tell by now, Death Sentences (or 幻詩狩り”hunt of hallucinated poems” in Japanese) is one unique, surrealist, though-provoking ride. Not exactly a roller coaster though. More Japanese-paced (which I like) but it has some kinda dullish moments as well, mostly the parts about the surrealist movement in Paris (that I didn’t care much about). So while I enjoyed getting a taste of Paris from an era long gone, I just had way more fun with the Japan arc (and it characters) in the present (present being the ’80s, as the book was published in 1984)
Overall it was a journey I’ll look back with fond, if a little scrambled (I still feel unsure about some “things”) memories. And the ending was just golden. Did not see it coming at all, and at the same time couldn’t possibly think of a more fitting resolution.
There is an amazing resemblance between the qualities of gold and of time. I have come to understand why alchemists were so taken with gold. They didn’t want gold. They were trying to control time, life itself.