Coin Locker Babies: Japan's Modern Writers

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9784770023087: Coin Locker Babies: Japan's Modern Writers
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Rescued from the lockers in which they were left to die as infants and raised to freely follow their ambitions, Kiku and Hashi begin parallel quests of vengeance against the mothers that abandoned them and the society that let it happen.

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About the Author:

Ryu Murakami was born in 1952. The only son of schoolteacher parents, he grew up in the port city of Sasebo in southwestern Japan. After graduating from a local high school, where he played the drums in a band called Coelacanth, he went to an art college in Tokyo. It was while studying there that he entered his first novel, Almost Transparent Blue, in a competition for new writers. Published in 1976, the book won a major literary award and sold over a million copies. Since then, he has worked for a publishing house, presented a weekly music and interview radio program, and hosted a TV talk show. His literary output includes two collections of stories Run, Takahashi (1985) and Topaz (1988), and the novel Coin Locker Babies (1980), which made its debut in English early in 1995. His roman a clef 69 appeared in English in 1993. He has also directed four movies based on his writing, causing a sensation at an Italian film festival when Tokyo Decadence was shown there in 1992. His latest film is set in the U.S. and Cuba.

Steven Snyder, the translator, is Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Among his first-rate translations from Japanese are Kunio Tsuji's The Signore: Shogun of the Warring States, which won the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prize; Ryu Murakami's Coin Locker Babies; Kenzaburo Oe's A Healing Family; and the forthcoming Out by Natsuo Kirino.

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The Market was a four-lane highway that ran through a tunnel in the area. The guards had apparently been bought off so that the tunnel could serve as a ready link between customers on the outside and the services provided inside. The system seemed to work, since the stalls that lined the road were doing a brisk business--with one difference: the commerce was almost completely silent. Not a voice could be heard as buyers and sellers, whatever the commodity, conducted their transactions in whispers, their lips pressed against each other's ears. The street stalls were fairly rudimentary, just a table and some chairs set up along the side of the road where the customers sat down and waited for the prostitute in attendance--in some cases a woman, in others a man--to quietly bring them a drink. The list of drinks was simple: watered-down beer or a kind of sweet wine in dark bottles. The freelance whores lining the street advertised with creative postures but rarely went out of their way to approach a passing customer. The men, it seemed, had been there from the beginning, but the number of women had increased suddenly when the underground highway had opened. Now they lined the tunnel, leaning against the walls, smoking with one hand and hiking up their skirts with the other. One woman had got hers up further than the rest, and the silver ring embedded in the fleshy lips between her legs glittered in the ancient yellow fluorescent light. A black woman languidly sucked grapes from a bunch, skinning them deftly with her mouth and letting them roll on her tongue like green marbles. Her dress, split down the back to the top of her ass, barely covered the sour, velvet skin beneath. A young girl was dancing in the street in toeshoes tied with white ribbons. On her thigh was a tattoo of a hydrofoil, and around her neck she wore a snakeskin collar complete with leash. A pair of twins had been painted on her buttocks, one per cheek, and they seemed to be clutching the real, lighted candle protruding between them.

In addition to the women, the tunnel walls were lined with makeshift drugstores which dealt almost exclusively in tranquilizers, the non-addictive drug of choice for both the working girls and their customers. A tranquilizer called Neutro, in fact, could almost have been said to be the pillar on which the social system of The Market was built. It was Neutro that one had to thank for the placid whispers, the smooth conduct of commerce minus the usual irritations and problems. Under a Neutro-induced haze, activity along the subterranean road was reduced to mutters, sighs, and muffled coughs, the sound effects of a concert hall between the movements of a symphony. The Market was a circus with the soundtrack left off, a silent parade, a muted ballet with only a light ringing in the ears gently lulling the spectator into the general torpor. Not silence exactly, but an odd, noiseless noise, like rustling silk, or soft footsteps on wet concrete--like a tongue sucking at a gap between two teeth, or skin on skin, or clear sake being poured into a glass. The Market was a masked ball with only the sound of the feathers fluttering on a thousand strange costumes. Those who saw it for the first time invariably said they thought they had died and gone on to some other life.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9784770028969: Coin Locker Babies

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Publisher: Kodansha USA, 2002
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