Kinshu-Autumn Brocade by Teru Miyamoto

Kinshu was the first Miyamoto book I read, and I was mesmerized by his beautiful and poetic writing.

Kinshu is an epistolary novel which consists solely of letters exchanged between the estranged and divorced couple who ran into each other ten years after their divorce caused by a double suicide in which the husband was caught.

As the story unfolds, we learned of the events leading to their tragic divorce, his near death experience, her encounter with Mozart music and its miracle, the obstacles they faced in their lives in the past ten years and in the present, and the healing and reconciliation process at which they finally arrived.

Miyamoto’s special interests seem to be about death, reincarnation, karma, and what happens after death.

“Perhaps the idea that life perishes with death is an enormous illusion created by an arrogant human logic… With my recovery, the “other self” that was observing me vanished. But if I had died, what would have become of that “other self”? Wouldn’t it just have become a disembodied, spiritless “life”, blending into the universe? And what’s more, wouldn’t it have continued in eternal agony, bearing all the good and evil of my actions? I repeat that what I saw was definitely not a dream. On the contrary, it was, if anything, the “reality of life” itself.”

“Perhaps living and dying are the same thing.”

I was pleased to see that Miyamoto portrayed strong women in this novella. From the determined ex-wife persevering to bring up her handicapped son to be an ordinary person, to the strong willed girlfriend who dragged the ex-husband out of his karmic cycle of self-destructive habits, they both serve as “saviors of man”. As the translator Roger K. Thomas put it in the Afterword:

“Though the exchange of letters is mutually cathartic, there can be no doubt that the ex-husband derives greater benefits from it than the ex-wife, and that the story may be read, as the critic Hideyuki Sakai notes, as “a tale of his salvation through her.”

Teru Miyamoto is a Japanese author born in 1947. He won the prestigious Akutagawa Prize in 1978 for Firefly River. Several of his novels were adapted into movies.

NB: Isn’t it apt to post a book review dealing with life and death on my birthday month? 🙂

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