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by Izumi Suzuki ; translated by Sam Bett , David Boyd , Helen O’Horan & Daniel Joseph

Pub Date: April 11th, 2023
ISBN: 9781839768491
Publisher: Verso

Suzuki (1949-1986), a pioneer of Japanese science fiction known for her dark and punky stories and essays, is back for English readers with a translated collection of short stories steeped in 1970s-era counterculture.

Suzuki’s characters are often outsiders, believing themselves alien in some way. Whether these beliefs are delusions or based in reality isn’t always the concern. In this book there are characters who suspect they are from a different planet or have lived far longer than other humans. There are characters who are placed and misplaced in other timelines and can't remember their pasts and others who see visions of the dead or right through to other worlds. Many of the stories have a strong dreamlike quality, in particular “My Guy” and “After Everything,” in which bizarre incidents eclipse any narrative and all that remains is a fleeting sense of something beautiful and troubling. One of the standouts, and most reminiscent of Suzuki’s previous work, is “Memory of Water,” a haunting tale about a woman's psychological state and the exhausting toll of misogyny. The story follows the protagonist as she reluctantly, and with much energy expended to “overcome this oppressive inertia,” leaves her house. The title story captures the pain and confusion of being alive through the communications—and miscommunications—of a seemingly nonaging protagonist living through repressive regimes. The book is time-stamped with cultural references, like the 1968 SF film Barbarella and bands Jefferson Airplane and The Zombies. Music is woven through the book, as if Suzuki had created an accompanying playlist and is urging readers to listen along. This collection reaches out from the past not as a warning so much as the musings of a writer grasping for hope in a dark world. Though the stories mostly end too abruptly, the tone is set and the mood will linger.

These 11 stories surprise with wry humor and stun with the loneliness of living.