TOURING THE LAND OF THE DEAD by Maki Kashimada
Translated by Haydn Trowell
Natsuko’s mother and brother have always hated Taichi. He isn’t good enough for her. He isn’t rich enough. He won’t help raise their station in society. And, now that Taichi has developed a neurological condition, he is an embarrassment to the family. When Natsuko takes him for a potentially curative procedure to a spa housed in an old hotel that her family used to frequent in its glory days, memories flood back and threaten to overwhelm her. Vicious, bitter snarks echo in her mind; the poisoned remnants of squandered family wealth. Her love for Taichi is sorely tested.
Kashimada keeps us on the back foot, never sure whether Natsuko will succumb to her mother and brother’s nasty influence - there are allusions to murder early on - or whether decency will prevail. It makes for a complex psychological study of familial power dynamics, but also a sensitive meditation on love’s outer limits. Moreover, it’s a masterclass on writing viscerally despicable characters. Kudos to Kashimada for making me loathe two people so deeply in fewer than seventy-five pages!
Touring the Land of the Dead by Maki Kashimada
Europa Editions, 2021
This novella is published alongside the novella Ninety-Nine Kisses in a single volume.