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Hell [Hardcover]

Yasutaka Tsutsui
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Aug 2007
Fifty-seven-year-old Takeshi has just been involved in a traffic accident. When he wakes up, he is in a strange bar, no longer crippled as he has been for most of his life, but able to walk without crutches in his everyday business suit. Looking around, he sees a number of familiar faces Izumi, a colleague who had died in a plane crash five years before; his childhood friend Yuzo, who had become a yakuza and had been killed by a rival gang member; and Sasaki, who had frozen to death as a homeless vagrant. This is Hell a place where three days last as long as ten years on earth, and people are able to see events in both the future and the past. Yuzo can now see the yakuza that killed him as he harasses a friend of his. The actress Mayumi and the writer Torigai are chased by the paparazzi into an elevator that drops to floor 666 beneath ground level. The vivid depiction of afterlife portrayed in Hell admits the traditional horrors, but subjects them to Tsutsui s unique powers of enchantment: witty, amusing, praised for its poetic style and the wizard-like light touch of the author s shifting focus, Hell is a masterpiece of surrealist literature.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Alma Books; First Edition edition (2 Aug 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846880378
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846880377
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,969,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


The nice thing about Tsutsui is that history and modernity combine effortlessly, as do drab reality and fantasy --The Daily Telegraph


The nice thing about Tsutsui is that history and modernity combine effortlessly --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars
3.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not For Me 12 Sep 2010
I found the premise of this book intriguing - a depiction of the afterlife in Hell told through the eyes of a selection of different characters. However, I found the book as a whole extremely disappointing.

The book follows various characters - who all seem to be linked, even if to a vague degree - as they gradually find themselves entering Tsutsui's version of Hell. The version of Hell put forward doesn't seem so bad - it's a place where people can absolve themselves before moving on to somewhere else. In fact, it seems in general to be a much better place to be than "the real world". It's worth pointing out that this is as far as the book goes. There is no underlying story, and little is brought to a conclusion at the end. Also, at times I found the text quite hard to follow. It's tricky to discern how some of the character's died - or even if they died.

The absence of chapters, and the way in which the author jumps randomly to and from each character's story made the narrative hard to follow. The style of writing isn't to my taste as it is quite shallow. I do prefer much more depth to a book, but this is merely my personal preference, and may not prove a problem for another reader.

One final thing to note is that the book I have is only 190 pages, whereas Amazon state the page count goes to 300. I'm not sure whether this is a misprint, or if I've somehow come across a shorter version? For me it's no bad thing, as I don't think I could have stuck with another 110 pages.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intertwined destinies that end in hell 1 Aug 2009
As the name suggests, it is a story about hell, or to be exact it is a collection of connected lives, all which end up in hell. This is not to say that they are all bad people, on the contrary. Most of them are just ordinary people with their own faults and ups and downs. It is not the conventional western hell as it would be described by Dante for example. I suppose it is more Japanese version, but it does makes sense. Maybe it lacks the concrete fire and the suffering always so present in western hells, but the Japanese do have a different view on life and death.

there is no conventional plot. There is no story as such. The underlying theme is the lives of the characters, how they are intertwined, how they lived, how they died and their experiences in hell. Each of which unfolds to the reader in no particular order as the story jumps between the different characters and moments constantly. One moment you're reading about someone in hell, and the next about someones childhood. Time isn't as sequential as we consider it to be in west.

The characters are very life like, as you get to know them; little by little. All very different from each other and each with their own faults.

It is a fascinating story, with slightly dark undertone as the name suggests, but it's not horror nor is it overly sad, just well a told story. The underlying Japanese language is still visible in some places in the text, but the translation is good; slightly better than for example in Paprika, another book written by Tsutsui. It's not overly long novel, but somehow it manages to tell the the life stories of quite few people in great details. Gives you something to think about.

Well recommended, especially if your interested in Japanese culture.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fragments of death and what comes after. 24 Jun 2010
Hell in Tsutsui Yasutaka's book with the same name is not so very different from everyday life. In some respects it is even better. For example, Takeshi, a cripple when he was alive, can walk just fine now that he is dead. Negative emotions also seem to be absent. Unfortunately, the same holds for positive emotions. The main characteristic of hell is an all pervading lethargy. Even being able to read other people's minds doesn't change that.

Hell describes the death of a group of people and their afterlife. These people know each other, but there is very little that connects them. The book is written very fragmentary. It constantly shifts viewpoint from one character to another, and there is hardly any chronological order in which the events are described. Neither is there a story. If you think that there is a revelation at the end that will explain everything that has gone before, you will be disappointed.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In some respects, Hell is much better than this world we live in 3 Feb 2009
By Paul Schifferli - Published on Amazon.com
Yasutaka Tsutsui's "Hell" is a wonderfully surreal novel which tells the story of three protagonists and their experience with the afterlife, though for a Western audience the title is misleading, in fact, the novel's portrayal of Hell is closer to the Western idea of purgatory. In this novel, Hell is not the realm of torture for the evil, but rather a world of ambivalence. The inhabitants of Hell remember their physical, mortal lives, but they simply have no more attachments to the physical world.

The novel may be a bit culturally distant for a Western audience, as Tsutsui's work does not follow conventional Western story conventions. If you really need a good illustration of this, watch Satoshi Kon's "Paprika" (seeing as it's an animated adaptation of Tsutsui's novel by the same name), and you will get an idea of what you're up against. This novel is not something that can just be read and taken 100% literally, it requires thought, literary analysis, and a willingness on the part of the reader to step out of their own cultural norms, and just let themselves be carried away with the story.

The novel doesn't require being an expert on Japanese culture, or even knowing much about Japan at all, just the ability to look at it from a closer perspective, as though it was part of your own culture. the purpose of this is to not focus on the cultural aspects of the novel so much as focusing on the metaphysical and surreal aspects of the supernatural.

A lazy reader, or even a reader who is over-thinking the subject matter may find "Hell" to be confusing, or boring, but this is because they are looking for a definite reason for the actions which occur in the novel, and with Japanese literature, and most importantly, with Tsutsui's work, the answer often does not exist.

Not everything is meant to be comprehended, but rather just to be experienced. This is not to say that the story exists just for the sake of existing, but rather that the answers to not exist in a conventional or rational sense. You receive no definitive ending to the novel, nor do you receive any closure of what becomes of the main characters, but what you will receive, if you read this novel the way it is meant to be read, you will likely attain some form of epiphany about yourself, the life you're leading, or about the world around you.

It has been said that journalists see the world in "shades of gray" rather than in "black and white", and that being the case, this novel, as well as many of Tsutsui's other works will help you see the world "in color", metaphorically speaking.
4.0 out of 5 stars You're here, too? 12 Jun 2009
By Dick Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
You may be dead and know it. You may be dead and not know it. You may be dead and think you're alive. You may be alive and think you're dead. You may even be more than one of these at the same time.

Told with flash backs, flash forwards and the here and now, we are given Tsutsui's vision of a Japanese afterlife. A varied group of folks are followed as they live, die and get a peek at each other's lives.

Quite post-modern in style, this is best suited for those with a liking for that genre; and those who have read modern Japanese writers. Though inventive and fun, it wasn't developed enough for a higher rating.

This is more a novella length book. It's small size, ample margins, largish font and double spacing throughout make it at best about 100 pages worth.
7 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This afterlife is pretty dull 28 Jan 2009
By Elizabeth - Published on Amazon.com
Hell is an unpleasant little book from start to finish. There are occasional flashes of humor or suspense, but for the most part, it's hard to get up the energy to keep turning the page.

Reviewer Christina Koning of The Times has written, "[C]ertainly gives an impression of what Hell might be like - if only through the mixture of unease, revulsion and boredom that it creates in the reader."

Tsutsui's depiction of hell is like Facebook in person, where all the people you've ever known gather and lounge around. It's almost like a continuation of life, except people have less motivation to do anything, and sometimes they feel badly, finally, about things they've already done. Even the most interesting characters remain sketches, not fully enough drawn for readers to be able to reconcile their widely divergent traits. For instance, one man suddenly sees his wife's beauty afresh, perhaps because the suffering he caused her in life has been lifted. He feels guilty because his loyal wife stayed with him even after he lost his job and became homeless; the two of them eventually froze to death one night in a park. Yet the same character, seeing a girl in hell standing near the door of a train in hell is also reminded of the countless times, when he was alive, that he molested young girls like this on trains, "snaking his hand up their skirts." He is filled with regret, and with relief that he "hadn't gone any further. He had certainly daydreamed about doing worse things."

As another man muses, "Everything that happened in the real world - everything that must still be happening there - seemed utterly insignificant. Could that be the true nature of Hell? To make people forget their attachments to their previous lives?"

The borders between life and the afterlife are shifting and fluid, and people move suddenly from one world to the other. One woman character is making love with her lover (fifteen years after his death) when her husband (dead twenty years) walks in and begins observing and talking with them. It isn't a dream, they both assure her, but it isn't reality either. "I'm alive but I can't get out of this bedroom ... This is my Hell," she concludes.

People stumble through hell almost as blindly as through life. Nobody learns much; at most people try to piece things together in an offhanded, dreamlike way. This glimpse into the afterlife offers little by way of insight or courage; it almost makes us want to cling in an un-Buddhistic way to life, in hopes of avoiding anything like this netherworld.
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