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Old 01-29-2012, 03:26 PM   #37
paola
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Asawi View Post
While I agree the writing was (for lack of better word) "stilted", and I too wondered if this was from the translation or if it might be the way it was written.
I suspect the latter, and I find that an interesting part of the book: Reading something that was written in such a different way than what we westerners find "normal".
I read the book in John Bester's translation, and I do not know how the two compares, but what I thought Ibuse was doing is render the style of a non literary person writing his own personal diary, and I think he managed pretty well in this respect, as at various times I had to remind myself that this was a novel, not a real diary. I read elsewhere that Shigematsu's diary really existed, and would love to read it to compare it with the novel.

Shigematsu himself was an interesting character to me: very analytic, yet very natural, so that some description really sound as coming from the journal writer. I also did find some repetitiveness at points, but to me this strenghten the claustrophobia of the living nightmare - even in relatively "quiet" scenes. For instance, when Shigematsu first looks at himself in the mirror:
Quote:
I peeled off the sticking plaster holding the bandage in place, and cautiously removed the cloth. The scorched eyelashes had gone into small black lumps, like the blobs left after a piece of wool has been burned. The whole left cheek was a blackish-purple color, and the burned skin had shriveled up on the flesh, without parting company with it, to form ridges across the cheek. The side of the left nostril was infected, and fresh pus seemed to be coming from under the dried-up crust on top. I turned the left side of my face to the mirror. Could this be my own face, I wondered. My heart pounded at the idea, and the face in the mirror grew more and more unfamiliar.
Taking one end of a curled-up piece of skin between my nails, I gave it a gentle tug. It hurt a little, which at least assured me that this was my own face. I pondered this fact, peeling off skin a little at a time as I did so. The action gave me a strange kind of pleasure, like the way one joggles a loose tooth that wants to come out, both hating and enjoying the pain at the same time. I stripped off all the curled-up skin. Finally, I took hold of the lump of hardened pus on the side of my nostril with my nails, and pulled. It came away from the top first, then suddenly came clean off, and the liquid yellow pus dropped onto my wrist.
I could not tell whether the infection was getting worse or better. The only thing I could do was to cleanse the affected spot and apply powdered medicine to the infected place, then cover the whole left cheek with cloth and fasten it with sticking plaster. I had prepared the medicine myself from a formula, consisting mostly of leek leaves, given me by a carpenter back home in the country, who said it was especially effective for cuts and infections.
The whole description is really gut-wrenching, then you get to the last paragraph, where the cure is.. leek leaves! and it is not all, as further on:
Quote:
In fact, I found, I had woken because my feet were cold. It worried me that I should get cold feet in August, at the height of summer, while the sun was still up. Feeling my toes, I found that the big toe on each foot was rather painful. Somewhat dismayed, I got up, lifted up the mosquito net, and went out onto the veranda. As I did so, something struck cold at my left cheek. I felt at it, and found that the bandage had gone. It was caught on the bottom edge of the mosquito net.
The mirror showed me that the infected place on the side of my nose was gaping open and had dried up crisp and hard. Life was one depressing thing after another. I went and soaked a small towel in water and gently wiped the affected area, replacing the bandage with a new piece which I fastened in place with sticking plaster.
It is a nightmare that just won't go away - and the closing lines of the book to me capture this sense of utter desperation quite powerfully.
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