I have recently started reading Amrita, quite on the off chance, having set out to buy a Daphne Du Maurier novel but being unable to find on the bookshelf neither The Loving Spirit or Rebecca. (http://savidgereads.wordpress.com/ among others is having a Du Maurier read-along for the month of October, appropriately enough for her novels seem to have that all hallows/autumnal vibe).
So! Banana Yoshimoto’s Amrita turns out to be the perfect read and at the best time. My favourite sort of readerly luck. It’s so far very Proustian, with the 1st person narrator drawing deliberate parallels from his madeleines to her attempts to regain her lost memory (after a catastrophic fall). There are wistful trains of thought passing through that strange territory of loss – her sister, Mayu, a famous film star, has died after crashing into a telephone pole while drunk and on drugs – probably deliberately. The narrative also is wonderfully, and never overly, jumbled up, reflecting the gaps and muddle of the character’s senses. Somewhat like I am trying to achieve with Aida in her sensory-overwhelmed state.
Here is a quote that, although I have thought much the same, is far more eloquently expressed, and has stayed with me all yesterday and today:
“Only recently have I discovered that humanity, that large solid body which seems so steadfast and strong, is actually nothing but a soft, flabby object, easily ruined under pressure – like when it’s stabbed, or run into.
This thing we call humanity, soft and fragile as an uncooked egg, manages to survive each day unscathed. Human beings function together and carry on separate lives, each and every one of us. All people – the people that I know, the people that I love – manage to go through life one day at a time, despite the fact that we do it holding weapons that could easily destroy us at any moment. Every day brings a new miracle.
Once I start thinking like this I find it hard to get distracted.
Of course there will always be calamities in this world, and I wonder why they exist. I ask myself that every time someone I know passes away, or I see someone in pain. But then I can’t help thinking about the other side of the story as well – the miracle of life that each one of us witnesses every day. Compared to the wonder of daily life, perhaps there isn’t a whole lot we can do about the sorrow…
[…] Be it the universe, be it the people I know. Be it their parents, and those loved by the people I know. Numberless births. Numberless deaths. Limitless numbers that would make you shudder if you could see them. Let me see the numbers now – those numbers close to infinity – as I think through my foggy perception of the world.”
It’s wonderful to be able to view this kind of feeling – where the individual hopefulness mingles with awareness of the magnitude of the human condition – from another side. Aida is less soft than this – she has a kind of iron edge to her, that cuts through her sorrow, or cuts herself. I can’t wait to find out how the world of the novel shapes around her – around Sakumi too, the voice of Amrita.