Hit Parade of Tears
by Izumi Suzuki, translated by Sam Bett, David Boyd, Helen O’horan and Daniel Joseph Verso, £11.99 (softcover)
‘How about going to Earth?’ Jebba, one of the characters in the short story ‘I’ll Never Forget’ asks his companion Mari. ‘Why would you suggest that?’ she replies. In this newly translated collection of 11 posthumously published tales, Izumi Suzuki, who is now being recognised as a pioneer of both sci-fi and transgressive literature in Japan, seems to constantly challenge received wisdom. Why, indeed, should we submit to reality on Earth when Suzuki’s dissident and anarchist science-fiction proposes alternatives full of rebellion, whether in outer space or through time.
Suzuki came of age amid Japan’s counterculture movements of the 1960s and 70s. She clarifies her opinions of the era in the titular story, ‘Hit Parade of Tears’, writing that a new independent political state that the story’s male character is seeking to establish would ‘encapsulate’ the realities of the Japan she was living in: ‘it would be violent and reckless and cruel’. While this is the only story collected here that directly articulates Suzuki’s distrust of the ruling authorities at the time of its writing, it’s telling that her antagonist would perpetuate within his ideal state the very one Suzuki defies. In many of these stories, Suzuki expresses a yearning for something else – whether an alternative self, or world. In ‘Memory of Water’ the nameless narrator goes through life in a dejected daze but one day wakes up as ‘Altershe’, an alter ego who ‘felt sorry’ for her other self, ‘fucking loved life’ and sometimes piloted their shared existence. However, when the other self regains consciousness and unknowingly destroys Alter-she’s relationship with a man, Alter-she permanently leaves. Left with this emptiness, the original-she thinks to herself that ‘Such was her punishment for hating the world. The world rejected her and wouldn’t love her and she hated it back.’
Alter-she, however, has fled to a di¦erent, endless universe: ‘A pure world with neither sorrow nor sin’, where she has the sense that the man she lost is returning to her. Indeed, the idea of an alternate, yet unobtainable utopia looms over the entire collection. Through stories of murderous aliens, rock-and-roll has-beens and failed witches, Suzuki knows very well that life on Earth sucks, but that doesn’t stop her from constantly imagining and reimagining radical alterities.