Japanese short novel translation: ”Sluggish Symbol, Inane Illusion” (緩慢な表象と虚ろな幻想): Chapter 8: “A New Development”

By | September 18, 2016

”Sluggish Symbol, Inane Illusion” is a short novel written by Yuki Fujimura that is published on syosetsu.com, which I enjoyed so much I decided to translate into English.

This story takes place in a unique society, where each citizen is legally obligated to write a single book during their lifetime.

You can see more information about this novel including a brief synopsis, my original review, previous translated chapters, and the original Japanese chapters at this table of contents page.

Chapter 8: A New Development

A book, which could be considered the authoritative edition of “Memories Traced by a Corpse”.
What I found written there––––was both the same, and yet so very different from the story I had known.
Extra description added here and there. Entire paragraphs. Completely new scenes.
The number of possible interpretations multiplied just from reading a few lines. Things that were obscured became visible.
Every single piece of information served a purpose. I got lost in a maze of my own thoughts.

For the next five hours straight, I indulged myself in “Memories Traced by a Corpse”.
At the end of those five hours, I finally realized Saki had left.
When I went into the hallway to see where she went, I found her eating dinner with the old woman.
Having been told by from Saki to “do as I like” and by Mitsunori’s mother to “make myself at home,” I decided to return to reading.
I spent the entire next week in the study, reading alone.

“So, are you regretting your decision yet?”

When stopping by the study for the first time in a week, Saki saw my ragged form and asked.
For food and drink, I made do with what she had left for me, and Mitsunori’s mother had also offered her hospitality. But it goes without saying that I didn’t go to school during this time. Nor did I return home.
I gave up everything, dedicating myself to reading the book and thinking about its myriad possibilities.
Reluctant to even move my body I sat still on the floor, only moving my eyes to look up at Saki.

“No. I haven’t regretted it one bit.”

I had no reason to regret anything.
I was in bliss just to be able to read this book. I can say with confidence I’m the happiest person in the universe.
My life has had a purpose. I’m grateful to have known this book.
I had nothing else to say to her.
I did feel sorry for Mrs. Sugikata, but I would repay her someday.
Even if it took my entire life. That’s how important this book was to me.

But upon hearing my declaration, Saki smiled.

“Sakizaki, I think you’re misunderstanding something.”

Saki entered the study, her shoes making a loud scuffing sound.
She slipped by me as I lay exhausted on the floor and went to the back of the room.
There stood a bookshelf––––but where she extended her hand was not towards it, but to a cabinet below.
Just then, I suddenly had a bad feeling.
Actually, I guess you wouldn’t call it a “bad” feeling. Rather, it was something to be happy about.
She opened the cabinet.
Inside was a large stack of papers.

“These notes were all written by Mitsunori Sugikata himself. There are character design sheets, events that didn’t make it to the book, and many other things.”
“…These are all his notes.”

A single book had taken me one week.
But this was over ten times the material of a single book.
I can’t even imagine how much time it would take. But I didn’t care.
I had no choice but to read it. I’d embarked on a journey where there was no turning back.
–––– into the realm beyond “one life, one book”.

Why indeed are we only permitted to write a single book during our lifetimes?

I cleared my dry throat.
“Do you think I’m still sane?”
“Of course.”

My life will never be the same.
Saki had been right about that. My life had irrevocably changed.
A single story had made that possible.
A story that I couldn’t allow myself to overlook even the smallest detail of.

Saki smiled at the me–the new, changed me.

“I chose you because you’re that type of person.”
“Because I’m a fan of ‘Memories Traced by a Corpse’ “?
“No. Because you’re someone who can’t turn back once you’ve learned something.”
” ‘Can’t turn back once I’ve learned something’?”
“You felt it yourself, right? That one volume wasn’t enough.”

Saying that, Saki opened her bag.
She withdrew a thick manuscript and three sets of notes.
These weren’t from Mitsunori Sugikata. Instead, they were her own story, written by her own hand.
The story that I’d critiqued as being too long––––

“Sakizaki, you have been a great reader.”

–––– Yeah.
I’d already predicted what she would say next.
Had she not been saying it from the very beginning?
“You don’t have to read anything”…”Just read what I write.”
She had chosen me, the one so careful with words, the one who couldn’t give up an attachment to reading.
Because with just the single book we were permitted to write, things were so terribly insufficient.
Saki had also chosen to not throw away a story that was no match for Mitsunori Sugikata’s genius.
Instead, she had chosen me,
and this was surely so that…

“That’s why I’d like your obligation to publish.”

…she could make this request of me.

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