Japanese short story review: 「緩慢な表象と虚ろな幻想」”Unreliable Symbol, Hollow Illusion” by 藤村由紀 (Yuki Fujimura)

By | July 25, 2016

Recently I reviewed the site “小説家になろう” which is where you can find thousands of free Japanese novels and short stories of various genres.

One thing I’ve realized (again) when looking for Japanese stories to read is that I’m quite picky about the types of stories I read. I try to stay away from things that sound too commonplace, like generic love stories. I like things to be “weird”, but not too weird. As a result, I generally prefer Fantasy and Sci-Fi that are set in unique worlds, or have interesting elements I haven’t seen before.

So it’s no surprise that it took me some time to skim through a bunch of summaries on this site until I found something that really caught my interest.

With “緩慢な表象と虚ろな幻想” (loosely translated as “Unreliable Symbol, Hollow Illusion”), I was really caught off guard by the creative premise, and was eager to dig in. It’s what I would call a medium-length story, with 28,506 characters. Before I knew it, I’d finished the entire thing.

Rather than talk about the story in my own words, I’ll just translate the summary as listed on the site into English:

遠くて近い未来、職業作家は姿を消した。国民は一生に一冊の本を出版することが義務付けられ、だが二冊目は許されない。本屋に並ぶ本は、全て誰かの一生に一冊だ。―――― どこまでも自由で、不自由な時代、言葉を惜しむ僕と、物語を愛した彼女のお話。

In the distant, but not too distant future, the profession of book author has disappeared. Every member of society is legally obligated to publish one book during their lifetime, but a second work is prohibited. Every book for sale in a bookstore is someone’s one and only published work. 

This is the story of a boy who keeps his words close to his heart and a girl who is in love with the art of storytelling.

Sounds pretty interesting, don’t you think?

Linguistically, I’d say the Japanese used in this book is moderate level, despite the fact the title contains four difficult, somewhat uncommon words (especially the first two). The style of this book is interesting because it combines some down-to-earth dialogue (much of it sounds like something you might hear in real life) plus some more abstract, deep stuff that you can find in hard literature.

I found the vocabulary used to talk about the process of book writing very informative, and would like to memorize many of these terms for use myself. Maybe I’ll make another post with some words from this story.

Despite the fact that 「小説家になろう」generally contains stories by amateurs or semi-pro writers, the quality of this story is very good. I think there was one or two typos, and a few places which could use a bit of polishing up, but overall it was well written.

If you have been reading my blog with any consistency you might be guessing at this point that I’m considering translating at least part of this story, and you would be right. I’ve actually sent a message to the author to see if he would be interested in working with me to produce an English translation. If things go well, I’d probably be translating it in chapters (there are 11) since it’s a bit long.

Anyway, the great thing about this story is it’s totally free, so if you want to give it a try, you can check it out here.

If you do read it and enjoy it, consider giving feedback and writing a review of it on that site. I’m sure the author would appreciate it. You may need to become a member first, but that only takes a minute or two to do.

If you are interested in a English translation of this story, please consider liking this post.

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