Saturday, 1 March 2008

In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami

In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami is on the surface a gritty hard boiled thriller set in the Kabuki-cho red-light district of Tokyo as the approaching New Year leaves near empty except for the human wreckage of the city. Jimji a young illegal sex tourist guide makes a good but shady living from taking westerners around the girlie bars, peep shows, hookers that allow foreigners.

He meets up with Frank who hires him for three days but from the start Jimji feels something is wrong and he starts to be sucked into an ever deepening nightmare that threatens his and his girl friend existence.

The story is told in the 1st person from Jimji perspective and is based on clear fluid writing equal if not better then Haruki Murakami, which evokes the place and time so that you have a movie in your head. Not necessarily a good thing given some of things that happen.

Beneath the surface is a very different story which leads to conclusions and beginnings that can be misunderstood if psycho thriller is the readers’ sole expectation. We are instead being lead into mediation through the events affecting two desperate characters on what the Western and Japanese experience of loneliness is. The key passage for me is this one.

I remember the American making this particular confession, and the way his voice caught when he said “accept it”. Americans don’t talk about just grinning and bearing it, which is the Japanese approach to so many things. After listening to a lot of these stories, I began to think that American loneliness is a completely different creature from anything we experience in this country, and it made me glad I was born Japanese. The type of loneliness where you need to keep struggling to accept a situation is fundamentally different from the sort you know you will get through if you just hang in there. I don’t think I could stand the sort of loneliness Americans feel.

Reflect on what is being said here and you will enjoy a taut psychological thriller whose outcome makes perfect sense. Highly recommended

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