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

 

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

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

    'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

    Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup