A violent story set in a nameless country, this book wavers, uncertain, between parable and reality, unable to commit to its own demands or come to terms with its premise.
The book follows Kitamura’s debut The Longshot, 2009, a finalist for the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award. The titular forest is not named, the title a phrase borrowed from the great Modernist novelist Knut Hamsun. We meet Tom, the son of the nameless patriarch who calls his son Thomas. We hear of conflict between “whites” and “natives,” indicating a colonial conflict. We meet the faithful servant Celeste and her inscrutable son Jose. Celeste was Tom’s wet nurse. Tom and Jose grew up together; native and master suckled at the same breasts. The nameless patriarch arranges a marriage for Tom to the coquettish Carine. Carine is a guest of the Wallaces, the only characters to have surnames. We are not meant to reflect on this curiosity, nor are we to wonder about the mix of periods. Clothing, methods of travel and the lack of phones seem to evoke the end of the colonial period, and yet the farm is a “fishing resort”; there is fish farming and a reference to “pain management.” When a volcano erupts, it seems no more than an excuse to terrorize the hapless Tom, the nymphomaniac Carine and the nameless patriarch. The writing is too idiosyncratic to pass without comment. The sentences are short, declarative. Many are fragments. The style affected, the metaphors mixed, the effect pretentious: “The thought of the girl returns to him like a flood and she kicks inside his brain.”
Enthralled by its own ambition and desire to shock, this book makes astonishing demands on readers’ good faith.