TRANSLUCENT TREE Hardcover – 24 Apr 2008
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Go and Chigiri aren't kids anymore, yet they're hit by an electrifying attraction that anyone else would call love at first sight. They're reluctant to give a name to this "entanglement of feelings." Anything named can be lost.
Since Go is married, their meetings are as isolated and dreamlike as the old cedar tree in Tsurugi that grows in a peculiar oblique fashion in the center of a field.
Translucent Tree has the stylistic purity of classic Japanese literature. Although this is the story of a grand passion, the writing is devoid of romantic clichés and conventions. Nobuku Takagi particularizes the experience of her two lovers with every detail, and they feel like real people. The reader is fully present with their embarrassments, fears and pleasures.
Translucent Tree is highly erotic. Yet in the very midst of "exploding with pleasure," the characters are expressing something beyond the physical. Sadly, body and spirit are seen as equally fragile.
I enjoyed the book and recommend it (if you don't mind scenes of explicit lovemaking).
Nobuko Takagi won the Tanizaki award for Translucent Tree, and I do sense a Tanizaki influence. As well as garnering literary acclaim, it was made into a movie. Translucent Tree is Takagi's first book to be translated into English.
Chigiri and Go both experiences a "love at first sight" phenomenon that turns them both into irrational adults, seeking out the physical company of the other. Their relationship suffers an awkward start due to both of them leading very different lifestyles, Go has a family he is detached from(and he doesn't feel guilty for sleeping with other women) and a job that consumes almost all of his time and Chigiri has an ill father and a child she needs to attend to, along with both of them living miles and miles apart from one another. Though the biggest obstacle at the start of their relationship would be "prostitution for money." It was the only fragile string binding both of their ulterior desires together and ended up being a barrier that both of them feared to destroy in order to take a step forward until the later half of the novel when Chigiri, influenced by a discussion she overhears from two male patrons at her work place, poised Go a question that would finally allow them to take the next step forward, with each of them reciprocating the other person's feelings.
During the first half of the novel, both characters have several internal thoughts that were left unsaid which I found to be beautifully intriguing. They sized each other up when together and fantasizes about what the other person might be doing when apart. Both of them left a lot of things unsaid due to their fear of accidentally snapping the tiny string that tied their relationship. As I read through those parts of the story, I eagerly waited, as if waiting for a hot cup of tea to cool down, for both of them to finally come clean with their feelings.
Chigiri's father's trade, which is that of a swordsmith, and its relation and history to the town is used several times throughout the story. My favorite historical lesson found in the book was about Tsurugi(sword) and Katana(Japanese single edged sword) that played together beautifully near the novel's emotional and beautiful end:
"tsurugi, or sword, originally referred to the broad, symmetrical weapon such as the one held in the right hand of the Buddhist guardian deity Fudomyo'o, whereas a katana, or Japanese sword, is the proper term for that tsurugi sliced vertically in half."
What became of Chigiri at the end of the novel is something that can only be described as "Extremely Beautiful as if Entranced in a Fleeting Dream." I can still vividly imagine how she swayed back and forth in her final scenes at the place of promise. I can imagine myself right there in that same place, a distance away, gazing at a fleeting beauty who I can only look at from afar. How her beauty and innocence had captured my heart and emotions as if becoming a slave to them. Chigiri Yamazaki and Go Imai's story had already started before the two of them were reunited 25 years later concluding in a most beautiful, emotional and translucent manner.