Sunday, August 7, 2011

MUSINGS / July 29, 2011

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun's July 29 issue.

* * *

The date stunned me. "It was on March 11 that an announcement from the U.S. geodetic society--saying massive crustal movements, centered in the Japanese archipelago, were about to occur--rocked the world like an electric shock..."

This quote is taken from the sci-fi novel "Nihon Chinbotsu" (Japan Sinks), written by Sakyo Koma

tsu and published in 1973 by Kobunsha Co.

The book was a big hit and sold more than 4 million copies. It is said that Komatsu became worried about the tax he would have to pay on the sales, and phoned his publishing company to say, "Don't print any more copies." The publisher refused, saying, "We can't do that."

Komatsu was a second-year middle school student when World War II ended. Many people just three or four years older than him had died in the war.

His first novel, "Chi niwa Heiwa o" (Peace on Earth), was built on a "what if" premise: What if the war had not ended when it did, and the decisive battle had been fought on the main islands of Japan?

"If not for the war, I probably wouldn't have become a sci-fi writer," he once said.

Komatsu--who helped elevate the perception of science-fiction writing in Japan, from an "childish" genre to a respected apparatus for critiquing civilization--has died, at the age of 80.

In "Nihon Chinbotsu," an old man says: "The Japanese people have, until now, lived like happy infants. For as long as 2,000 years, we have lived happily in the bosom of these four warm and gentle islands."

Reading this, and the date mentioned in the passage quoted at the beginning of this column, it is hard to believe the novel was written nearly 40 years ago.

(Aug. 4, 2011)

No comments:

Post a Comment