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Kokoro no Kanashimi

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“The sadness of the heart” — quite a theme for this collection from the Nishioka Keishi (litterally, brother-sister), explored along a dozen of strange little stories, driven by a peculiar narration.
At first glance, one could think of it as childish, from the fragile art with its “flat” perspectives and the care given to patterns, and a narrative build of simple sentences and emotions listed without flutter. Here, the characters seem striken with amnesia, from this man who finds out his wife houses a snake in her mouth, to this little girl who wakes up a morning to discover she turned into a ghost, or to this other man who come back home to find five children who might be his.

There is some questionning, some quest for meaning, but without a real motivation, it is more “shô ga nai” that prevails (the Japanese equivalent to “mektoub”), an apathetic and resignated acceptance. Each one of those short stories leads to a generally cryptic conclusion, having more to do with Koans than with life teachings, but always leaving a vague feeling of uneasiness.
It might have to do with those characters without identity except for a barely existent self, looking like long-limbed dolls, floating more than moving in a environment that is alien to them. Silences of incommunicability, quest for happiness but surrounding apathy, everpresent uncertainty, distance from things — for those characters who do not know how to live, the shadow of their mortality often remains the sole reality, undeniable as well as inescapable.

Obviously, Kokoro no Kanashimi is hard to pin down to a genre — at the same time suprising, unsettling and cristalline. A book on its own, that leaves us wanting to discover more.

Official website Nishioka Keishi
Chroniqué par in November 2007