A lonely postman learns that he’s about to die—and reflects on life as he bargains with a Hawaiian-shirt–wearing devil.
The 30-year-old first-person narrator in filmmaker/novelist Kawamura’s slim novel is, by his own admission, “boring…a monotone guy,” so unimaginative that, when he learns he has a brain tumor, the bucket list he writes down is dull enough that “even the cat looked disgusted with me.” Luckily—or maybe not—a friendly devil, dubbed Aloha, pops onto the scene, and he’s willing to make a deal: an extra day of life in exchange for being allowed to remove something pleasant from the world. The first thing excised is phones, which goes well enough. (The narrator is pleasantly surprised to find that “people seemed to have no problem finding something to fill up their free time.”) But deals with the devil do have a way of getting complicated. This leads to shallow musings (“Sometimes, when you rewatch a film after not having seen it for a long time, it makes a totally different impression on you than it did the first time you saw it. Of course, the movie hasn’t changed; it’s you who’s changed") written in prose so awkward, it’s possibly satire (“Tears dripped down onto the letter like warm, salty drops of rain”). Even the postman’s beloved cat, who gains the power of speech, ends up being prim and annoying. The narrator ponders feelings about a lost love, his late mother, and his estranged father in a way that some readers might find moving at times. But for many, whatever made this book a bestseller in Japan is going to be lost in translation.
Jonathan Livingston Kitty, it’s not.