I’ve discovered another interesting Japanese novel published online on Kakuyomu so I contacted the author, and he was kind enough to give me permission to translate it and post the result on my blog. The novel is titled “Cube City” (立方体都市) and written by Ikkai Inubousaki (犬吠埼一介).
The novel is broken up into a few chapters, and this post covers the first half of the first chapter. You can see the original Japanese text here.
I’d like to give a big thanks to Yeti for doing a translation check of this entire half-chapter in the early stages and helping improve the overall accuracy of the end result. (By the way, he has his own blog where he reviews Japanese novels and even has a few translation excerpts)
It so happens that Ikkai Inubousaki, the author, has several of his novels published on Amazon Japan. You can see this particular novel listed on Amazon here (which is free as of the time of this post). The image on this post was taken from the cover listed there.
I’ve put the synopsis for this series at the bottom of this post since there is a little of the initial story revealed. I’ve also put a short list of translation notes after the synopsis.
If you liked this chapter, please leave a comment here (or vote for it on my survey here) to help me decide what to translate more of. As usual, there is much to translate and little time (:
Chapter 1: “Cube City” (Part 1)
Everyone worked throughout the night. This was only natural, since in this place–a city without a sun–there was nothing but night. In Idea City, the morning held off until the very last day: the day the world ended. They all worked themselves to the bone in the hope of one day seeing the morning sun, eking out a living as part of the endless cycle of birth and death, bound together by love. But just as this thought came to mind, the ground beneath me lurched.
No sooner had I begun to wonder what was going on than I knew the answer. It was them, the Erasers. In the midst of chaos as shelves bearing important documents came crashing down, I single-mindedly searched for her. But a crowd of men promptly stormed into the room in black combat uniforms, weapons glistening in the light. I found cover at once. Fire rained down, the fire of death.
The Erasers existed for only one reason: to eliminate ideas. Intolerable! They adamantly opposed the formation of ideas. The letters, helplessly pursued and destroyed, had no chance against the concept of the eraser. Still, I won’t give up. I refuse to give up! I infused my entire body with these letters and tried to bear the Erasers’ merciless attack.
They finally left the room, seemingly satisfied with their work. You guys did a poor job. You forgot to erase something. I’m still alive. I quickly crawled out from between the rubble of eraser shavings and headed to Fickliana’s place. I wouldn’t stand for that precious girl getting erased. Sweat oozed in my palms. Thankfully, I found her right away.
There she was, singing. She appeared to be waiting for me, not concerned in the least about being erased. She was always like that. As I charged into the room with sweaty palms, she stared deep into my eyes as if poking fun at me. Let’s go. With these few words, she fell in behind me.
A taxi waited outside. The driver wordlessly motioned us inside and then pulled out into the street. The buildings receded as we cruised through the sparse traffic of Idea City. Only moments after we took off I heard the thundering sound of a building exploding somewhere behind us. Our car stopped, trembling as if it too feared the sound. I began to rise up out of my seat once it hit me that the building was probably no more.
At that moment I realized what had happened. The letters comprising my body had moved instinctively in an attempt to protect the letters back there, which had been built up over many years. Enraged, I turned to look back, only to discover the letters of her right hand tightly gripping the letters of my left hand. I heard a sound like a taut rope being pulled. Don’t leave me! Her body and soul were ripe with the words of this message, screaming out in a desperate appeal.
I could feel her palms were also sweaty. Flames lit up the darkness of the night sky. They’re burning, the precious letters are burning. I had to do something. Sweat trickled down my cheek. Fickliana wouldn’t let go of my hand. I glanced at the taxi driver. But when she squeezed my hand even tighter, as if to say, “How dare you look away!” the strength of her grip made me abandon my plan to get out and help the letters. The car took off again.
Idea City, a world of churning emotions, constructed in the mind of a fiction author whose books wouldn’t sell. Its inhabitants worked around the clock, day after day, just so that he could make a book that sold, even only a few copies. Any word could dwell in this city of letters, as long as it could accept being simply a word. No more, no less. Strings of words make up the world, and each of these connections formed an idea.
Words had gradually developed Idea City since the author was young. You know, I actually heard there was nothing there in the beginning. The history books talked about how the city would tremble tremendously each time the author bumped into a wall. Intolerable! The Erasers refused to allow the existence of ideas that had desperately accumulated over time, perusing them until they were no more.
I’m not sure when I was born. One day, I just woke up here. My name is Suregio, and my ability isn’t very powerful. I’d bet I came into being because the author is such an idiot. That guy really asks for the impossible. Do you have a problem with that? The letters I string together are vacant. Heartless and hilarious–but only in the sense of everyday jokes.
I accepted the name of ‘Suregio’ because that’s what everyone calls me. The girl sitting in the car with me is Fickliana. She’s my one and only girlfriend. I guess it’s sort of ironic since the author doesn’t have one himself. Actually, maybe I only have a girlfriend because he lacks one. She only accepted that name because it’s what I call her. She pays no attention to the nicknames given by others.
Fickliana is pretty powerful, you know. Maybe she came into existence because the author was lonely. Or maybe there was some other reason. But I don’t think there is any way I, Suregio, could ever understand that sort of thing. Don’t ask so much of me, OK? She possesses the ability to tolerate and accept. All I can do is punch, so I’ve never beaten or even tied her in a single game of rock-paper-scissors.
Fickliana, the taxi driver, myself, and the car. Our group of letters sped with abandon through the city where morning waited patiently until the end of the story. Music from the good old days played in the car. Fickliana had taken these songs from Idea City without the Erasers finding out. I really liked her and her music. Their beauty totally captivated me.
The car left the city, heading for the midnight ocean. On the beach stood a lighthouse. For some reason, the author didn’t seem to like sending the Erasers here, no matter what happened. What was so special about this place? The eye of the lighthouse spun around and around. Why? For what purpose? I couldn’t fathom what that light wanted from me.
I got out of the car and walked down a path hugging a cliff where a pleasant sea breeze blew. Fickliana hummed along with the music playing in the taxi, still audible from a distance away. Her hair was beautiful, strands of letters swaying in the wind, so wonderful that I was struck speechless. I loved her. My whole being was suffused with those letters.
The shining light of the lighthouse. The midnight ocean. The coast. Rumor had it that this would be the first place to be bathed in light when things ended. I had made a mark by impressing a seal into the paper, lightly so nobody else would find it. I did this because I believed I would visit this place one day. I knew that I, Suregio, would one day greet the morning here, away from the prying eyes of the Erasers.
The taxi driver put a cigarette to his lips and gazed out at the night sky, pitch black as if completely empty. But when the letters in the word smoke trailed up into the sky, I noticed stars were twinkling. Whenever we move around in the author’s head, this driver always comes to pick us up. What a helpful guy. The car is a pretty high-end model, too.
I had a strong feeling that the Erasers had already completely wiped out the ideas deemed worthless after much consideration by the author, and at this very moment buildings made from blank pages were being prepared, as if nothing had happened. Those assholes didn’t care about all the suffering I’ve been through. But I guess the author, too, had his reasons. A new opportunity has been created for me thanks to him.
Fickliana and I were the only ones who survived from the group of ideas disposed as third-rate trash. We’ve managed to escape to a place where the Erasers can’t follow. It’s fine with me–we’re the real heroes of this story anyway! Fickliana and I, together, are the authors now. I’m sure of it.
As I stared absentmindedly at the rotating beam of the lighthouse, I made up my mind: together with Fickliana I would create a groundbreaking idea here, an epoch-making chain of words that would stand up to the Erasers, whatever happens. And then this world would become something amazing. I’m sure of it. After all, I’m Suregio, right? So if I say something, it will surely come true.
Tranquility returned to Idea City as if nothing had ever happened. But it would be a lie to say nothing happened. All the words that had been here until yesterday had disappeared without a trace. At this rate, night would continue indefinitely. But we letters have no need for sleep, so this isn’t really a problem. Let’s see, I have a new idea now: “Cube Town.”
Based on my observations, the world the author lives in is even more chaotic than this one, more tragic, more depressing. It’s so bad I can’t even bear to watch it. At least that’s how I feel viewing it from within his mind. I’m sure actually seeing this world each day through his own eyes is enough to drive him crazy. It sure makes my life difficult. The city here gets laid to waste, and when the story is destroyed before it has a chance to finish I have to escape again.
Time ticked by. In this world, sound still existed. Tick, tock, tick, tock–can you hear the letters? A single moment defines all of eternity. That’s what it’s like here. The difference between outside the author’s head and this place is that here there’s nothing but letters, and the sun never rises. After all, the start of a new day is, in a sense, the completion of something. Here, even when we work all night there’s no sense of living a nocturnal life.
What is the beam of the lighthouse searching for? Why–I tried to infer the answer from the letters of this word. The fact that the Erasers have annihilated the world that we had built up over so many years means that here the sun will surely never come. As letters, we will never be able to directly see what the eye of the lighthouse is searching for.
Schroedinger’s cat. He’s one of the inhabitants of this world and just suddenly flashed across my room. He’s terribly quick. You can’t tell if he’s there or not unless you watch very closely. Here, he’s highly respected and wields great power. He’s a real wild card. I look away, feigning ignorance.
More time has passed; the number of cabinets has increased again. I paced around the room, searching nervously for any sign of the Erasers. The lighthouse continued rotating, as always. It was the eye of the author, yet at the same time something else entirely different. What was he searching for? What was he afraid to lose? It was only when alone with Fickliana that I could understand these things.
Fickliana sang, stringing together word by word in her own special way. I was always fascinated by the texture of her voice, soft like a comfortable piece of woven fabric. I was her boyfriend, but our rooms were separate. When I returned to my desk, I was greeted once more by its solemn structure. I already missed her.
I paced back and forth in front of the desk while pouring the letters for coffee down the letters for throat. Schroedinger dashed across my room yet again. I cursed under my breath as I fixed the letters. Don’t mess up my room. You better not mess it up! You’ll upset the balance I’ve established. Behold the logical beauty of Idea City that I’ve constructed.
You see, Schroedinger’s cat is truly a mysterious creature. When I went on a date with Fickliana to get a change of pace (how I pity you, author!), I brought up the topic of the cat. She looked towards Schroedinger and squinted ever so slightly. The topic didn’t seem to be of her liking. Meanwhile, the cat repeatedly conjured up the letters of fish and devoured them.
In all honesty, there has to be something wrong with an author who keeps a pet cat in his head, even though his name contains the character dog. To make things worse, he’s full of uncertainty, with the characters of his name being anyone’s guess until they are actually written out. The words of Suregio are being defiled by dirty feet! Is the author truly deserving of Idea City?
Fickliana smiled. The word red blossomed on my cheek but faded away immediately. Her smile was always amazing, but reading the feelings behind it was difficult. I’m surprised we’ve stayed together this long. Our relationship is one of the mysteries of Idea City. Wow, the city is being rebuilt before our eyes. Look!
The hoard of Erasers hadn’t swarmed in yet. The city construction seemed to be going quite well this time. I really got that feeling. I could already tell that the eye of the lighthouse tended to shine towards a certain direction. But I didn’t tell Schroedinger that. Did you think I would really do something stupid like that?
I get the feeling the author isn’t too enamored with the real world. Why? Why? Why is the eye of the lighthouse rotating endlessly? I think that at this point, I’m probably the only one who knows. But I’m not sure about Fickliana walking beside me. It’s like I told you before. The letters that comprise me are insufficient to comprehend her.
But have no fear. As long as I–Suregio–and Fickliana are inside his head, I’m sure that someday we will see the light of dawn. The author is starting to panic. Outside his head, much time has passed. Morning, night, morning, night, morning, night. The letters of day revolve around and around, much like the beam of the lighthouse. But for us here, there’s only night.
(Here is the second half of chapter 1)
In order to create a novel, an author must sift through many ideas, selecting only the best while purging those deemed inadequate. Each idea is built from a string of words, which are in turn formed from a series of letters.
I’m Suregio, one of the inhabitants of Idea City, where ideas form, are purged, and then rebuilt afresh. I work desperately together with the others to create a masterpiece for the author. Our city is shrouded in eternal night–at least until the story is finally completed and the sun can rise for the first and last time, a spectacular dawn for all to behold.
Alas, I fear the swarm has come once again to dispose those of us found unworthy. I have to hurry and find her, take her to the only place that is safe before the world is returned to a blank page…
- The synopsis was rewritten by me (after reading the original one in Japanese) into a form I felt would attract readers’ attention better.
- I’ve changed the two main character’s names in this chapter to try and capture the nuance they have in Japanese. Here is their original names along with explanations of each:
- 絶対夫 [Zettai-o]: “Zettai” means “definitely”, “absolutely”, “for sure”, etc. The “O” part (夫) has several meanings, but here I think it just represents being male. The name I ended up going with, “Suregio” is a reference to “sure”.
- ゆらぎこ [Yuragi-ko]: The verb 揺らぐ (yuragu) means “to shake” or “to waver”. The name I ended up going with, “Fickliana” is a reference to the word “fickle”.
- The original novel was written on Twitter in a series of posts, paragraph by paragraph. I believe that why there is very little variation in the lengths of the paragraphs, and many shorter sentences as opposed to one or two long ones. For the most part I have kept the paragraphs boundaries as they are, however in some cases I have joined or adjusted the sentences in other ways to improve the readability or flow in English.