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Death Sentences

Death Sentences

Copyright Date: 1984
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Death Sentences
    Book Description:

    Death Sentences is the first novel by the popular and critically acclaimed science fiction author Kawamata Chiaki to be published in English. With echoes of such classic sci-fi works as George Orwell’s 1984, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and Philip K. Dick’s Martian Time-Slip, Death Sentences is a fascinating mind-bender with a style all its own.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7953-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. FOREWORD: From Surrealism to Postmodernism
    (pp. ix-2)
    Takayuki Tatsumi

    In 1984, George Orwell’s symbolic year, Kawamata Chiaki (born in 1948) published his ambitious novelGenshi-gari. Here translated asDeath Sentences, the Japanese title literally means “hunting the magic poems” or “in pursuit of the magic poems.” Kawamata was one of the most talented of the second generation of Japanese science fiction authors to debut in the 1970s, andGenshi-gariattracted a wide audience and received good reviews, winning the fifth Japan SF Grand Prize, the Japanese equivalent of the west’s Nebula Award, established in 1980 by Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of Japan. In order to complete this masterpiece...

    (pp. 3-28)

    Someone was coming out of the apartment building—the woman.

    Sakamoto took the unlit cigarette from his mouth, tossed it on the ground, and stubbed it out with the tip of his shoe.

    That was the signal.

    With an air of perfect nonchalance, the three detectives entered the building just as she was leaving.

    With a brief glance to make sure it was she, Sakamoto began casually walking after her.

    Another man, a young detective called Harada, passed Sakamoto, tailing the woman at about fifteen paces.

    Harada’s role was to distract her.

    It didn’t much matter if she noticed him...

    (pp. 29-64)

    It was a raw cold afternoon.

    Glowering clouds had darkened the skies for three days already.

    Paris, April 2, 1948. In a timeworn café in Montmartre, André Breton was waiting for a certain young man.

    He continued to wait.

    But the man hadn’t shown.

    Instead, the café door was swinging open to the occasional gust of wind that would sweep in laden with dust. It swirled at Breton’s feet.

    Breton’s left leg began to throb with an almost imperceptible yet persistent and wearisome pain.

    The pain quickened his irritation. In about two weeks Breton would be greeting his fifty-second birthday....

    (pp. 65-100)

    . . . the second hand kept turning. It eventually met the long hand at the fifty-nine-minute mark. They overlapped, and then, with flawless precision, the second hand continued on, marking the passage of a new second.

    The short hand was now nearly approaching the four-hour mark.

    Bells chimed from across Parc Blanche.

    Breton did not look up.

    The movement of the watch hands held his attention completely.

    (Only another minute.)

    He did not want to change his mind again. He had no intention of changing his mind.

    With the passing of each second Breton had made the same pledge....

    (pp. 101-144)

    It was Friday afternoon.

    With a red pen, Mishima Keiko was editing the proofs of a column to be carried in a women’s magazine. At a workstation along the wall, another temp, a designer, was working on the layout for a special insert called “A Complete Guide to Orgasm” for the same magazine.

    Everyone else had cleared out.

    All was quiet.

    From the headphones strapped over the designer’s ears, a faint drumming could be heard.

    It must be incredibly loud for him.

    With that sort of work, you’d need something to numb your mind.

    Sakakibara Kōji slugged down the last...

    (pp. 145-186)

    The day after the funeral, there came a call from Kasadera’s mother.

    If there was anything that Sakakibara wanted from among the books and papers that he had accumulated, she wanted him to take it.

    She said she’d take the remaining books to a used book dealer.

    Kasadera Tōru had been the youngest of three brothers.

    His parents were currently living with the eldest son and his wife in Shizuoka. The middle son was in Nagoya.

    Apparently, they had found a buyer for the house in Shibuya where he had been living alone.

    “I see. I will come take a...

    (pp. 187-228)

    Konami Shichirō, a translator, received a phone call from Harado Zenji in Osaka.

    Harado taught English literature at a university in Kyoto. In his early thirties, he was very active as a scholar.

    Fond of science fiction and fantasy literature, he also contributed reviews and essays on these topics to scholarly journals.

    SF was Konami Shichirō’s principal line of work. In addition to translations, he wrote essays and occasionally published novels under a pen name.

    For two years, he had been writing a column in a monthly journal in collaboration with Harado.

    Each month they would make a selection of...

    (pp. 229-240)

    “. . . Another universe . . . inconceivable . . . with words I would fashion it . . . or so I thought. But words proved too imperfect for the task. And so I used a little trick where their imperfection caused distortion . . . Dobaded . . . Exactly . . . The word was a sort of adhesive . . .”

    Sakamoto listened. He listened through the ears of the man named Schmitt, mercenary leader of the Massacre of 2131 on Mars.

    Through his ears . . . ? Well, that wasn’t it exactly. The...

  11. AFTERWORD: Vortex Time
    (pp. 241-264)
    Thomas Lamarre

    Like Kawamata Chiaki’s other novels,Death Sentencesmoves quickly, reads rapidly. Nearly every sentence is set off as a paragraph, and sentences are short, simple, and on the whole, regular and complete, which imparts a great deal of energy to the sentence, visually and verbally. Exceptions to the rule—paragraphs of two or three or (rarely) four compact sentences—confirm the overall sense of the power and simplicity of the standard sentence. But such simplicity is not that of, say, Gustave Flaubert, where limpidness is tortuously wrung from language with endless revision, resulting in awkward yet striking rhythms. Nor do...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 265-268)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 269-269)