GHOSTS by Morio Kita


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Here, in lyrical, if at times cloyingly intense, prose, the narrator of Japanese writer Kita's latest (The House of Nire, 1984--not reviewed) exorcises a lost past through nature and the imagination. Haunted by painful memories, the narrator, a nameless young man coming of age at the end of WW I, is aware of feeling ill--not physically sick but irrevocably affected by the past, ""the change that had secretly taken place"" and the voices that ""would remind me of my own childhood fears."" This melancholia has been fed by the dreams and memories he has of his book-loving father, his beautiful mother, who had once lived in the West, and his delicate sister, who died when he was still a child. In long Proustian passages of total recall, he describes his mother's room with its European furnishings; childhood visits to a nearby graveyard, where he once thought he saw death as a puff of mist; holidays and incidents at school; and his new home. A collector of butterflies and insects, he finds that nature would always be ""the source of my truest being, a perfect relationship never to be forgotten."" Unable to free himself from the ghosts that haunt him, he embarks on an exploration of the Japanese Alps. There, one cold winter night, watching a storm, he has a moment of epiphany--the ghosts are exorcised, and he resolves ""to go down to join the rest of mankind,"" to live in the present, to acknowledge that life must go on. Much fine writing, as nature and a beloved past are evoked, but the narrator's claustrophobic obsessions ultimately overwhelm the theme.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1992
Page count: 200pp
Publisher: Kodansha