Black Elephants's Reviews > Out

Out by Natsuo Kirino
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Feb 17, 09

bookshelves: fiction
Read in March, 2007

** spoiler alert ** I was very disturbed by this book, and its A Clockwork Orange take on the world. It starts out as a run-of-the-mill mystery wherein a wife kills her husband and her friends help her dismember the body. From there, Kirino takes the reader into a story about love—the Romeo and Juliet kind—and the modern person's search to penetrate a personal solitude that is created by their disappointment in society.

No one is fulfilled in this novel not even by death, and this comes no more clearly than through Kirino's Romeo and Juliet: Satake and Masako. Satake is in love with Masako because he sees in her the same fire he killed 17 years earlier. As a youth, he tortured a woman to death in the most pure moment of ecstasy he's ever known and has yet to re-experience. That is until he meets Masako. By hating the woman, Satake can love her. By killing her, he can grow closer to her. By making love to her in her dying, he can penetrate all barriers that exist between humans. It's really twisted.

Masako is a middle-aged, broken down woman who finds herself anchoring her 3 friends in a murder cover-up. Her resourcefulness, which was never used at her job because intelligence in a woman is frightening, comes in handy. Unfortunately, it also eventually pushes her even farther from other human contact. But she's stubborn, hard and not shaken by the brutalities of this cold world, and to Satake, this makes her his mirror image to hate, deride, kill and love.

But that's only the end; god, the end was disturbing. Kirino, like many of the Japanese writers I've read, paints a bleak world where so many things—family, work, sex, death—is mechanical. The 4 women cut up corpses and throw them out with the trash. (It's what happens to every human being eventually, whether we like to think it or not.) In Kirino's modern world, women are toys, men are drones, foreigners are foreigners, and even the relationship between mother and children is broken. Masako's son won't speak to her. Yoshie's daughters use her, and Yayoi's children don't trust her. Youth seems to be the only protection from this disillusionment, but few of Japan's youth or those who appear young in Kirino's book, are uncorrupted, and in the end, it seems the only "good" character is of polluted blood (Japanese-Brazilian). There, he is automatically a derided outsider.

But what was most disturbing to me was how this murder novel was actually a love story in disguise. It is narrates a rite of passage for a character that has been trapped in the mire of despair and maybe might escape it despite the horrifying, inhuman costs. (Although, I started praying that nothing would happen to Masako despite what she's done.)

Also, I've only ever read two novels that have made me physically sick. One of them is Out, which goes into dismemberment, rape, physical abuse, murder and stalking. The other is Haruki Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicles, which contains a interesting description of a human being skinned alive.


To the ignorant: Japan is not all about the wide-eye magical, manga girls.

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