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The Summer of the Ubume by Natsuhiko Kyogoku

The Summer of the Ubume

by Natsuhiko Kyogoku

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Tokyo, summer 1952. A journalist picks up some rumours of strange goings-on at a medical clinic - a man has vanished from inside a locked room, his wife has been pregnant for 20 months, there are dark hints of Nazi experimentation and stolen babies. Freaked out by the stories but seeing a publication opportunity, he goes to talk it over with his smartest friend, a secondhand bookseller who is also a shaman. The friend warns him off from publishing, but also becomes interested in the story, and in the end, joined by a private detective with a sort of second sight and the bookseller's equally clever sister, they are drawn into trying to 'solve' the mysteries.

So, it's a crazy story, told by the (rather susceptible) journalist, but leavened by the staunch rationalism of the bookseller/shaman, who starts the book with a long discussion of how the supernatural - ghosts, curses and spirits - 'exist, but are not real' - that is, people believe in them and therefore they have an impact on people's behaviour, despite the fact that they are total fiction. An atheist shaman (as he is) might seem like a contradiction in terms, but in fact it gives him the ability to play with the language and images of different religious beliefs, until he finds the one which resonates with his 'patient'. The whole story plays out as a demonstration of his argument: there is, in the end, a rational explanation for everything, but it's filtered through the imaginations and psyches of the different characters.

I found this a very interesting concept, although the story itself was occasionally too dry (much too much of the bookseller's philosophical disquisitions) and the mystery story became so baroque that I was very confused even after all the explanations. ( )
  wandering_star | Dec 29, 2012 |
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In Japanese folklore, a ghost that arises from the burial of a pregnant woman is called an Ubume... In the first of the Kyogokudo series, the hero Kyogokudo is an exorcist with a twist: he doesn't believe in ghosts. To circumnavigate his clients' inability to come to grips with a problem being their own, he creates fake supernatural explanations that he exorcises with staged rituals. In his first adventure, Kyogokudo must unravel the mystery of a woman who's been pregnant for 20 months and find her husband, who disappeared 2 months into her pregnancy.
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Akihiko 'Koyogokudo' Chuzenji is an exorcist who doesn't believe in ghosts. He creates fake supernatural explanations so that he can 'exorcise' his clients' real problems. In this first adventure, Kyogokudo must unravel the mystery of a woman who has been pregnant for 20 months.

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