A startling novella from the heir to Haruki Murakami and Gabriel García Márquez
'I've never made it out of Tokyo. I can't tell you how many times I've asked myself if the boundary is real. Of course it's real. And if you think I'm lying, you can come and see for yourself.'
Trapped in Tokyo, left behind by a series of girlfriends, the narrator of Slow Boat sizes up his situation. His missteps, his violent rebellions, his tiny victories. But he is not a passive loser, content to accept all that fate hands him. He attempts one last escape to the edges of the city, holding the only safety net he has known - his dreams.
Filled with lyrical longing and humour, Slow Boat captures perfectly the urge to get away and the necessity of finding yourself in a world which might never even be looking for you.
Hideo Furukawa, born in 1966, is an acclaimed and prize-winning writer, hailed by many in Japan's literary world as a prodigy worthy of inheriting the mantle of Haruki Murakami. He was awarded the Mishima Prize in 2006 for Love. His best-known novel is the 2008 Holy Family, an epic work of alternate history set in north-eastern Japan, where he was born.
Furukawa's playful short novel consists of nine chapters called boats, which can easily stand alone as short stories. The first-person narrator is a hapless everyman, baffled by society's conventions, technology, and the mysteries of the heart. "I've never made it out of Tokyo," he declares by way of introducing his failings to the reader, and goes on to share details of failed romances or near-romances going back nearly 20 years to the fifth grade. At 19, he has an unexciting but steady girlfriend, but he messes up the relationship through a fling with a coworker, a slightly older security guard. The narrator's third girlfriend is arguably the most significant; that relationship ends in a spectacular and hilarious way. The boats are broken up by short, quirky sections called chronicles. Each begins with a concise paragraph of memorable events from the chosen year (2000 lists a Japanese gold medalist in the Sydney Olympics and a possible rapprochement between North and South Korea). The lively imagination and yearning of the protagonist, as well as his amiable first-person narration, have echoes of Japanese literary giant Haruki Murakami, a generation older than Furukawa. In this refreshing book, Furukawa proves to be an imaginative and captivating storyteller.