Book: A Man
Author: Keiichiro Hirano
Translator: Eli K.P. William
Publication: Amazon Crossing
Price: Click the link below
A Man by Keiichiro Hirano is a psychological thriller where multilayered identities get entangled through the interplay of different personalities. Before budging into the novel let’s have a look at the author’s life.
Keiichiro Hirano was a Japanese novelist who was born on 22nd June 1975 in Japan. He graduated from the Law Department of Kyoto University and Kido the lawyer of A Man is modelled upon him.
His debut novel The Eclipse won the Akutagawa prize in 1998 at the age of 23. His novels were widely read in France, China, Taiwan, Korea, Italy and Egypt.
His novel A Man that we are going to read won Japan’s Yomiuri Prize for literature.
His other significant novels are:
At the End of the Matinee (2016)
Nisshoku/ The Eclipse (1998)
The Transparent Labyrinth (2014)
The story unfolds with the tragic death of Daisuke Taniguchi, a forester, unfortunately, killed by an accident when a heavy cryptomeria tree fell upon him.
Rie, his wife eventually informed his family about his death. He was estranged from the family for long years as he informed Rie during his marriage. His brother Kyoichi came to attend his funeral but when Rie showed him a picture that her late husband gave her as their family picture situation took a new turn. Kyoichi identified the dead man as someone else, not his brother Daisuke though the picture that Rie showed was their family picture. So Rie contacted the renowned lawyer Kido (he dealt with the divorce case of Rie with her Ist husband many years ago) to detangle the knot of identity.
In the course of his investigation, he became obsessed with the new case of Rie. He was entrusted with two tasks: finding out the original identity of Rie’s husband and finding out the two identities he used to live: Makota Hara and Daisuké Taniguchi
In the course of his investigation, Kido found Makota Hara (original name of Rie’s husband) has lived many identities before becoming Daisuke. He dug out his boxing history from the fellows Makota was acquainted with in his boxer life.
“First, Hara had learned about Omiura online or through some other source and become Sonézaki. Then, probably dissatisfied with the Sonézaki identity for some reason, he had swapped his new register with Daisuké Taniguchi and gone to Town S, where he met Rié. If this was correct, the upshot was that the real Daisuké now went by “Yoshihiko Sonézaki.” Assuming of course that he hadn’t swapped his register again. And assuming that he was still alive.”
And when Rie came to know about the real identity of her husband she felt that she was getting introduced to a new man. She was confused and in a great conundrum in which name to call him. She even discovered that Makoto was two years younger than her though he claimed the opposite. She was also moved deeply by the sad life of her husband. The novel ends with the mental reunion of Rie with her elder son Yuto and Rie’s accepting her life with more maturity and calm recognition.
The novel A Man by Hirano is woven through the psychological tensions of identity swap. The thread of mystery cannot do well in comparison with the subterranean flow of psychological thrills. Kido who was assigned the job of finding the true identity of Rie’s second husband became obsessed with this interchange of identity…living another life by leaving own identity.
The prologue introduces us to the web of lies and identify-exchange. Kido feigned to be another person in the prologue when he met the narrator at the bar where he was drinking alone. He was chatting with the bartender and the narrator joined them. Amusingly and shockingly the narrator realised that the identity Kido had offered was not his.
“ The initial introduction he gave me-his name, background-I wound soon learn was all lies. But as I had no reason to doubt him then, I believed every word.”
When he asked Kido about the reason he explained:
“I keep myself together by living other people’s pain,” he said eventually with an indescribably lonesome smile.”
Kido was fascinated with identity swapping…living the life of others…erasing one’s own identity to live another life. It helped him to forget his real-life crisis and take refuge in a make-believe world.
In the same way, it is true for Kido, for Makota, for Daisuke. They want to escape their life, maybe their nightmares, evil destinies and genetic threats.
Akira Kido: Akira Kido is an efficient divorce attorney who handled Rie’s divorce with her ist husband and again was in charge of finding the true identity of her second husband who was dead. He is a middle-aged lawyer who loves to play with changing identities. His life is disturbed because of the emotional distance that he suffers from his wife, Kaori. Sota is his only son.
Rie: A woman who had divorced her first husband and lost her second husband at the beginning of the novel.
Yuto: Eldest son of Rie from her 1st husband
Ryo: Younger son of Rie from her ist husband. He died a tragic death at a very early age.
Daisuke: He is the unknown identity upon whose name Rie’s second husband forged his identity.
Makota Hara: The disguised Daisuke and the second husband of Rie.
Hana: Rie’s daughter from her second husband.
Keiichiro Hirano is new to me. I never read any of his works though I am a great fond of Haruki Murakami and have read many of his novels.
I found the book A Man in Amazon Kindle. I got attracted by the name and the image of a man standing along with his silhouette on a yellow cover page. The cover page is mentionable for its unique connotation or symbolic insinuation of the theme of the novel.
It can be the journey of Akira Kido…or Rie…or Daisuke or Hara… Rie was living a lie…though she was happy in that lied life as well her husband Makota Hara alias Daisuke.
“I think that the three years and nine months that Hara-san spent with you was the first time that he ever knew happiness. True joy, I suspect. As short as your time together was, it was the culmination of his entire life.”
They both were living a life…a false life…life based on fake identities. But even then they were happy. So identity does not matter…what matters most is the way you live your life. This is the message I get from the novel A Man by Keiichiro Hirano. And that is the lesson Rie got from life:
“She decided that those three years and nine months had been happy for her as well, so happy that her memories of that time and everything that flowed from it might just content her for the rest of her life.”
And I must acknowledge my obeisance to the translator Eli K.P. William who translated the book for us.