Harvill Secker £12.99

March was Made of Yarn, Edited by David Karashima and Elmer Luke

Disaster-struck Japan is ready for its close-up

'If you shut your eyes to a frightening sight, you end up being frightened forever," says a teenager amid the horror of the Great Kanto earthquake that struck Japan in 1923. "But if you look at everything straight on, then there is nothing to be afraid of." David Peace's searing story of the collapse of religious and ideological faith in the aftermath of disaster closes this moving, if uneven collection of fiction grappling with the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear catastrophe that devastated north-eastern Japan a year ago.

The question of how writers should look at events in which more than 15,000 people died reverberates throughout. The Tohoku earthquake was filmed as no other, by camera phones and news helicopters. The 16 stories here, most of them by Japanese writers, begin where that footage stops. While the eyewitnesses used wide-angle photography to evoke the phenomenal scale of the Earth's power, the writers narrow the lens to describe events in intimate close up.

Mitsuyo Kakuta delicately calibrates the interaction of loss and time, as a wife leaves her husband after he has an affair the night that a power cut plunges Tokyo into darkness. "At no time can we return to where we were ..." the wife tells herself. But despite her ruminations, intended to hold her misery at bay, the story suddenly ends as the world turns. "The triangle of sunshine had shifted, and her finger was now covered in shade," as if some unspecified planetary event is a blemish on an otherwise optimistic future.

Like Kakuta, most of the writers in the collection prefer not to look at 11 March 2011 straight on. Instead stories are woven in the past or future around it, rupturing continuities of memory, family and place. The writing is replete with luminous, sometimes strange, imagery. We meet a pregnant woman dreaming the world is made of yarn, the universe's fabric revealed as things fall apart

Several writers explore how for many Japanese people who moved from the countryside to the cities when they grew up, the disaster has corroded a sense of origin and exacerbated feelings of rootlessness. Invisible menace pervades the Fukishima writer Hideo Furukawa's story about a man returning from Tokyo to his parents' rural home, who finds that the family grave has been damaged and radioactive fallout detected: "My own memories have been polluted."

In "After the Disaster, Before the Disaster", David Peace, who has lived in Japan since 1994, conjures the most striking image for the forces inside the Earth that produce a quake: "a gigantic metallic worm burrowing through caverns". Returning to the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake, which killed more than 140,000 people, Peace illuminates one thread of Japanese history that last year's disaster did not break – its violent geology. And he implies disasters still to come.

Royalties from the sale of this book will go to reconstruction charities in Japan

 

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement