Ghosts

by Morio Kita

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Tags: Set in Japan Male author

Ghosts

Description:
A pattern on a carpet; a red cocktail cherry; hide-and-seek in the dark; gravestones; a waterfall; a silver butterfly; a sister's death; a botched drawing; the sound of a flute.... Ghosts is a novel about the quest for a lost childhood, of which only fragments like these remain. Memory is focused like a magnifying glass on these clues to one man's past. Small, commonplace things are thus enhanced, and even simple events--relaxing in a bath, or flying a kite, or being unable to whistle--take on the same kind of aura that more dramatic ones have. In trying to remember, the narrator learns to see the world again with the intensity of a small child's eyes--a gift that readers of Kita's brilliant, longer novel, The House of Nire, will recognize as one that illuminates all his work. And, though in Ghosts the searcher does eventually rediscover some of the key episodes and images of a hidden past, his ultimate discovery perhaps is that the ordinary is in itself profound; and that what gives dignity to the insignificance of human life is the presence of the natural world, shown here in passages of precise and moving description. Kita started writing this novel when he was twenty-three. It is a young man's book, produced at a time when postwar Japanese literature was itself still young, the sort of book that will probably never be written again since writers now have lost the kind of innocence that allows one to reach truths of this order. Given the narrator's obsession with butterflies and moths, readers may be reminded of Nabokov, even if the real powers behind the book are Mann and Rilke. But they will not be wrong for here, too, memory speaks with its real voice, telling its truest fictions.

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