Japanese short novel translation: ”Sluggish Symbol, Inane Illusion” (緩慢な表象と虚ろな幻想): Chapter 7: “The Answer”

By | September 14, 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 7: The Answer

Mitsunori Sugikata’s study was a massive thing, enclosed on three sides by a bookshelf built into the wall.
In the front was a large wooden desk, upon which a single book laid open.
However, there was nothing else remarkable about the room. It had been kept clean, free of even a single spec of dust, but there wasn’t particulary anything of interest within.
I looked around the stuffy room, detecting a certain smell often found in enclosed places.

“Wow, there’s so many ancient books here…”

Mixed within the books on the bookshelf were several written by the same author.
These were from back in the days when there was still career authors. I called out in amazement at the sight of relics that could not longer be found in most people’s homes.
Saki responded with a voice devoid of emotion.

“I don’t mind if you look around, just make sure to put everything back where you found it. While these don’t have much financial value, they are a precious treasure nonetheless.”
“Why are you acting like this is your own room…”
“Before long I’ll probably be the rightful owner of these.”
“But this isn’t your house! You don’t live here!”

What the hell is this girl talking about? I just can’t take her anywhere.
But this didn’t change the fact that I was interested in Mitsunori Sugikata’s collection of books. Without further discussion, I went around the backside of the desk.
Just as I began to look at the books there, my shirt collar was suddenly yanked from behind.
I screamed out in a terrible voice at the unexpected attack.

“Sakizaki, you sound like a crazy bird…”
“I’m the one who should be complaining here! Why are you pulling my collar?!”
“If you died right now, your screams of anguish during your last moments would be a little underwhelming. Maybe you should get some practice?”
“Who in their right mind practices their last moments?!”

It’s amazing she could do something like this in another person’s house.
Rubbing my neck, I turned to face Saki again.

“It seems like you’re totally determined to rip my head off…”
“Not really. I just thought I would help you adjust your priorities.”

She pointed towards the study desk.
A single hardcover book laid open upon it.
I wonder if this is one of the books she talked about being the rightful owner of.
When I tried to get a good look at the book, she spoke again.

“That book has been there since the day Mitsunori Sugikata disappeared.”
“Mitsunori Sugikata? He disappeared?”

I was so glad to hear he didn’t die. I guess he is still missing somewhere.
Which I guess means…this book is the last clue to his disappearance.
I began to flip through the pages quickly––––

“Wait a second. Is this…”
“What’s wrong?”
“This is… ‘Memories Traced by a Corpse’.”

There wasn’t a doubt in my mind. Both the main character’s name and the setting was the same as “Memories Traced by a Corpse”. But I’d never read this scene before.
Also, this book was hardcover, unlike than the book I had read. I flipped it over and confirmed its binding was unfamiliar.

“This is really weird… This book is much thicker than the one I read.”
“That’s the second printing.”

“Second printing”? This doesn’t make any sense.
Even assuming that in rare cases books have a second printing, the design and thickness never changes to this degree.
If this kind of thing is permitted, the concept of “One life, one book” becomes fuzzy.
Saki gave me one of her beautiful smiles as I stood speechless.

“Sorry, let me clarify. This is actually the unpublished edition of ‘Memories Traced by a Corpse’. After the first printing was finished, he had this version created for himself. The reason there are so many pages is simply because of the many things he wasn’t able to cut out.”
“I would never have imagined that something like this…”

I was just dying to read this book…
On its own, “Memories Traced by a Corpse” was a surrealist novel where many parts had nearly infinite interpretations.
But the existence of unreleased material totally changes things.
Suddenly Saki grabbed my hand and stopped it from flipping through the book on its own accord.
Wondering what she was up to, I returned her stare.
Several seconds passed with our gazes locked––––but she didn’t release my hand.
With a deadly serious look, I asked her.

“Are you just screwing around with me?”
“Let go.”

What is going on in this girl’s head!
What the hell! Just let me read the book already!
But Saki wouldn’t let go of my hand.
She stared at me with her pitch-black eyes, floating like fragments of the night sky.

“You’ll regret this, Sakizaki.”
“Why would I?”
“Your life will never be the same.”

Why is she making such a big deal out of this?
But…what I have before me is “Memories Traced by a Corpse”. The enigmatic book that influenced me so much.
As if Saki had been right, I felt a mysterious energy coming from this book–the answer to all my questions–and quickly took a deep breath.
She flashed a pretty smile at me once more.

“If you are really fine with that, go ahead and do as you like.”
“Do as I like…?”

I’m sure there are many times where a book can change someone’s life.
That’s be to expected, considering that each of our lives is inextricably connected to our personal book.
And yet, every other book is also connected to someone’s life.
––––Therefore it’s no surprise that another persons’s book could change my life.
That’s why books exist in the first place.

So I nodded.

“I’ll do as I like. So let go of my hand.”

Saki was silent.
She released my hand as requested and withdrew a step.
I approached the desk and picked up “Memories Traced by a Corpse”.

I opened it.
––––To this day, I’ve never regretted my decision.

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