An intense psychodrama, winner of Japan’s prestigious Akutagawa Prize for Fiction. The story is told through three deftly intertwined elements. The first consists of bookseller Tsuyoshi Manase’s tormented memory of his experiences near the end of WWII, in a cave on the Philippine island of Leyte, where he was traumatized by a “massacre of sick soldiers” (ordered by a proud captain) and haunted for years afterward by the dying words of a gentle lance corporal, who assured him that “even the most ordinary pebble has the history of . . . earth written on it.” A further element of the story is composed of Manase’s marriage and fatherhood, both tragically blighted by his obsessive collecting of stones and work as an amateur geologist, and both effectively ended when his eldest son Hikaro (himself a budding scientist) is savagely murdered. Finally, there is the confusion in Manase’s mind—unresolved until the concluding pages—that conflates his ordeal on Leyte with the later events of the day (while Manase was “away”) when Hikaro perished: in a cave. In this slowly paced, yet oddly absorbing, study of obsession and sublimation, Okuizumi moves skillfully between Manase’s present and past, relaxing the story’s tension only for an inexplicably extended account of his second son Takaaki’s estrangement from his father, career as a college soccer star, and involvement in radical student politics. Still, Takaaki’s climactic confrontation with his father dovetails beautifully with Manase’s realization that the “hallucinations” he suffers have a disturbing basis in reality; and it precipitates the story’s bone-chilling visionary ending. A remorseless little tale, very much in the spirit of that masterly storyteller Ryunoseke Akutagawa (some of Yukio Mishima’s psychological novels come to mind as well), and a fine debut performance.