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In Search of a Distant Voice by Taichi…

In Search of a Distant Voice (1986)

by Taichi Yamada

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Tsuneo, a Japanese salaryman with a guilty secret haunting his past, thinks he might be going off the rails when he hears a woman's voice speaking to him from out of nowhere after an incident during a raid. Having nothing in his life but work as an immigration officer with the exception of an arranged marriage in his near future he's not sure if he's suffering a mental breakdown. Communication continues with the voice of the young woman, Tsuneo requests that they meet to confirm he's still sane. The woman reluctantly agrees.

If you need resolution to your stories then stay away from this book. It's a very quick read but there isn't much to this story to find that interesting. ( )
  AHS-Wolfy | Apr 8, 2011 |
Yamada's a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine: I don't find the translations all that great (at least, I expect the translations are the issue), they often just sort of end in a very unresolved manner, and he's prone to reusing a few themes over and over again. That said, they make a quick one-night read.

This one, however, just went nowhere at all. Strangers was a nice enough ghost story. I Haven't Dreamed of Flying in a While occasionally got the difficulty of connecting with other human beings and an air of loss across at points. In Search of a Distant Voice, about an immigration worker who suddenly starts hearing a voice talking to him, never really did anything interesting with the initial concept and I came out of it disappointed. ( )
  g026r | Jun 9, 2010 |
A very slight book about an female entity (personal? ghost?) making contact with a young immigration office. Unfortunately it reads like a translation, so whilst the original may have been ethereal and moving this was just, well, there really. Inoffensive enough, which isn't really a recommendation. ( )
  michaeldwebb | Sep 5, 2009 |
Nobody does crushing loneliness and uncertainty like the Japanese, and of those novelists one of the very best is Yamada Taichi. It’s a real shame his body of work has gone largely untranslated, and an even bigger shame that only one of his three novels in English has received a wide release.

Like his previous works, In Search of a Distant voice is about the loneliness that inhabits even the busiest city-dweller, the emptiness at the bottom of the soul that exists possibly in greater quantities when the bearer is entrenched firmly in city life. There’s a combination of hopelessness and nonchalance about the whole thing that is decidedly Japanese. This mix of emotions and reactions could quite possibly exist nowhere else on the planet.

Kasama Tsuneo is twenty-nine and about to get married to a woman he met through his boss. It’s an arranged marriage, loveless and sexless and as formal as formality gets. As an immigrations officer, Tsuneo spends most of his time at work and doesn’t have much opportunity to meet women, so having his boss set him up seems a stroke of luck.

In the predawn hours of what would normally be an average morning, Tsuneo participates in a raid on a residence full of illegal Indonesian residents. One man slips out a window and into a neighboring graveyard. Tsuneo corners the man and is about to arrest him when he is suddenly struck by a wave of emotion that culminates in a body-shaking orgasm. Humiliated and terrified, Tsuneo lets the man escape.

In the days that follow Tsuneo is haunted by a feminine voice asking who and where he is. He responds, sometimes audibly, sometimes internally, until the stress of it all threatens a complete nervous breakdown. Finally, in exchange for an arrangement to meet face-to-face, Tsuneo tells the woman about his time in America in his early twenties, and about a man he once knew named Eric.

Anyone who’s read either of Yamada’s previous works, Strangers and I Haven’t Dreamed of Flying For a While, will know what they’re getting into. I won’t spoil the plot any further, but if you’ve read one Yamada ending you will definitely have a heads up on what’s coming. For anyone else, rid yourself of expectations and you may enjoy it. Perhaps even reading Strangers first would be advisable, as it’s his strongest English work to date.

Yamada’s not for everyone, but his books are incredibly quick, accessible reads. A few hours spent with his characters are easily worth the less than two hundred pages that encompass In Search of a Distant Voice.

http://alookatabook.blogspot.com/2009/06/13-of-2009-in-search-of-distant-voice.h... ( )
  JackFrost | Jul 8, 2009 |
A strange story about an immigration officer who becomes obsessed by a woman who can speak to him telepathically. The main character's voice is casual, in the same way that I've read in Banana Yoshimoto's books, which contrasts with the strangeness of the situation. The book is actually about people in strangeness, with side stories about Tsuneo's work in which he finds ordinary people living in deplorable situations as illegal immigrants, about Tsuneo's causing of the death of his friend and short-term lover in Portland, and his antics as he is trying to follow Japanese convention in getting married.

Tsuneo sees the normal as strange, and tries to make his own life fit in the way others seem to fit. He works to make people--including himself--conform. His connection with a disembodied woman's voice is a simple but effective metaphor for this impossible task. ( )
  allison.sivak | Jan 14, 2009 |
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