- Audio Download
- Listening Length: 6 hours and 50 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Brilliance Audio
- Audible.co.uk Release Date: 8 Dec. 2012
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00AL6TY9Q
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
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Fujisan Audiobook – Unabridged
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Top customer reviews
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This is fine, precise writing, clear and often casually shocking. The central characters in each story - the manager of a convenience store, previously a member of a spiritual cult; a group of teenage boys obsessed with the dark side of the psyche - ghosts, the cult of suicide; a beautiful young man with an emptiness and violence at his heart; a nurse working in gynaecology alongside both birth and death, all have a certain similarity, of an almost shellac brittle exterior, through which surges all sorts of repressed and partially repressed violence and secrecy.
The characters are all loners, to some extent, but preserve acceptable veneers. The mountain speaks to each of them, or they use it, in some way, to project aspects of their own nature on to.
It is the casual weaving in of the fascination of suicide, the brutality and sadism of thought or action, the contrast between the delicacy, spareness and refinement of Japanese art, for example, and this expression of an almost matter of fact brutality of certain aspects of the culture - seppuku, for example, and how that has a cult value accorded. It is the difference between the spareness of the writing, and at times the violence and brutality which is being written about which is so alien and unsettling. The stories express loneliness, disengagement, have a nihilism about them - and yet have this strange purity. A fascinating, unsettling read - a bit like pulling on wet clothes, and finding discomfort at the edge of your skin, so that the clothes not quite settling right almost translates to an unsettling feeling in your own skin, so that your own, known, edges, are somehow suddenly revealed to you
Having read these first two stories I was disappointed and considered giving up on the book as a whole. Although both contain powerful and original imagery, they often felt heavy-handed and unpolished. The last sentence of 'The Blue Summit' was a particular let-down. The final two stories, however, although not perfect, were a great improvement and I found them compelling and enjoyable.
'Jamila' tells the story of an old woman whose home and yard is gradually being overtaken by revolting rubbish and the council worker sent to try and deal with the problem. The narrator is an empty and unpleasant character who deals with people and things he finds problematic by mentally consigning them to a bottomless rubbish pit. The old woman, by contrast, seems to be reclaiming such rubbish, forcing him to confront it. Finally 'Child of Light' is a rich complex story, which has as its narrator a nurse whose desire to comfort conflicts with the hatred she feels for her abortion-seeking patients.
So overall a mixed bag which I would recommend for the last two stories.
'Blue Summit' tells the story of an ex cult member who simply wants to create the perfect convenience store, but finds his life and thoughts interrupted by co-workers and customers. With this opener, we are introduced to the themes of loss and detachment which run through the collection as a whole. Most of the stories, this included, are told from the perspective of one character with only glimpses of how they are seen by others. The central character here is detached from society choosing to live in their own bubble, possibly because of past choices. There is a sense of sadness similar to what you would expect in a Banana Yoshimoto story, but nothing is ever clear. This detachment filters through to the reader and we are left unsure of how to feel about living in this person's world.
The same can be said for the third story 'Jamila' in which a rich young man experiences possible dreams, possible nightmares, and possible realities and half-baked memories which even he cannot be certain of. It is his job to remove a 'crazy old garbage' lady from her house near Mt. Fuji as it is polluting the view, but he grows fond of the woman who seems to be the only person he can connect with. He is another intriguing character as he seems to treat this woman with respect, but doesn't care about anyone else (at least it seems that way) as explored during a comical, graphic, and also haunting sex scene. Once again nothing is as it seems, and we keep ourselves at a distance from proceedings. This could almost be described as similar to some of Haruki Murakami's shorter pieces thanks to the assortment of odd, disaffected characters, but it would be stretch to truly convince anyone of this. For any Murakami fans who may be reading the review though, this story may be of interest.
'The Sea Of Trees' feels like the odd one out in the collection, though it is the story I enjoyed most. It tells of three boys, outcasts who will soon be parting ways, who decide to spend the night in a forest near Mt. Fuji which is a notorious suicide spot. Hoping possibly to see a body, or even a lingering spirit, the story explores more philosophical themes as well as covering the central ideas of loss, choice, relation to others, and covering Japan's bizarre suicide rate.
The final story was quite a struggle to finish simply because it cuts so close to the bone, dealing with the loss of a child. Anything with this topic is obviously difficult, but Taguchi writes with the honesty and closeness of someone who has experienced this so the numbness of the words tugs you into the story. Ultimately a tale of hope, with the symbolic climb of Fuji, the story serves as a strong, apt closer.
With all the aforementioned themes, perhaps the ultimate message is one of choice wonderful, weird, or terrible things may happen to the individual, but the world at large will probably not change or even be affected by your successes or losses. How you choice to cope, move on, stop, is your choice alone. This points towards a cold,uncaring world, but it is the realisation that we are all going through similar choices which we must remember. Taguchi is a writer I will try to read more of. If you are interest in Japanese culture, particularly its literature, then Fujisan is clearly a devoted, interesting work. It poses many questions, will raise a variety of emotions, and while I can't do it the service or injustice of calling it entertaining, it is definitely a good read.