5 July, Hiroyuki Itsuki

文字数 4,700文字

Scrambled Morning


The hotel restaurant’s windows provided a fine view of the clump of green trees in the next door park.
  The breakfast menu was always the same. Tomato juice and yogurt. A choice of scrambled eggs or omelette. A dutiful addition of one-millimeter-thick ham and salad leaves. Toast or croissant, plus coffee.
  No other diners were about. Indeed, it seemed there were virtually no other hotel guests. The spread of the coronavirus was leading to more and more hotels closing their doors.
  He had been holed up here for the last two days, and tomorrow he must wrap up his work and check out. He was paying his own way, after all.
  His job was writing popular novels. Quite apart from the opinion of his publishers, this is how he thought of himself. And it was why he was here staying in this five-star hotel—to write a story.
  Lifting a mouthful of the somewhat over-soft scrambled egg to his mouth, he opened the morning paper. The coronavirus spread was showing no sign of slowing, he read. The numbers of new cases in Brazil and India were steadily rising towards the top of the infections list.
  Next, his attention was drawn to a big spread in the local news about a famous orchestra that had put on an audience-free concert. Similar news stories were scattered about in the pages.
  It seemed that pro baseball had also decided to hold spectator-less games. There was talk of small theatre groups performing audience-free plays, and another article reported a popular rock group that had chosen to do a performance minus audience.
  There’s meaning simply in performing, the band’s leader was reported as saying. We’re doing it because this is what we’re compelled to do.
  The term audience-free performance stirred something in him. A popular novelist must be constantly alert to what’s currently popular, after all.
  He stopped midway through his breakfast, put down the newspaper, and sank into thought. Spectator-less. Audience-free. Minus audience. Yes. Here was the essence of the present Corona Culture Age. He felt himself grow hot with the revelation.
  He pulled out his flip phone. No sooner had he called the fiction magazine than the editor was on the line.
  I’ve just had a fantastic idea! he announced, full of enthusiasm.
  Yeah? What is it? said the editor.
  Novels have to be sensitive to the times, right?
  Right, I get that. But. . . .
  Music, theatre, sports—they’re no different, either. What do you think is the keyword for our ‘corona virus age’?
  Hmm. What?
  Spectator-less! Audience-free! That’s what! Simply to express oneself is important. And the world of fiction has to respond to its times, too. If it doesn’t, contemporary culture will abandon it. And so, I’ve been thinking.
  Uh-huh?
  The readerless novel. A pure work that doesn’t require any reader. One where the writing itself is the point—
  Have you caught the virus by any chance? The deadline’s tomorrow, you know. There’s no time to waste!
  His editor hung up.
  Come to think of it, the tomato juice didn’t taste like tomato juice. And he seemed to have a slight fever. And a small headache. He focused his eyes and looked out the window. The trees in the park were swaying, somehow maliciously.


Translated by Meredith McKinney/Arranged by TranNet KK

Hiroyuki Itsuki
Born in Fukuoka Prefecture, 1932. Resided in Japan-occupied Korea until the end of the Second World War. Enrolled in Waseda University’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences studying Russian literature. Won the 6th Shōsetsu Gendai New Face Award in 1966 for

Saraba

Mosukuwa

gurentai

(Farewell hooligans of Moscow), the 56th Naoki Prize for

Aozameta

uma

o

miyo

(Look at the pale horse), the 10th Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for Literature in 1976 for

Seishun

no

mon

(The gates of youth). Enrolled at Ryukoku University from 1981 as a special student, studying the history of Buddhism. His book

Tariki:

Embracing

Despair,

Discovering

Peace

, published in New York, was selected as Book of the Year (Spirituality/Inspirational Books) by Foreword Reviews in 2001. In addition, he was awarded the 50th Kikuchi Kan Prize in 2002, the NHK Broadcasting Culture Award in 2009, and the 64th Mainichi Publication Culture Awards Special Prize in 2010 for his novel

Shinran

. His works include

Kaigenrei

no

yoru

(Night under martial law),

Sutesseru

no

piano

(Stoessel’s piano),

The

Kingdom

of

the

Wind

,

Shinran

(Three-volume work),

Taiga

no

itteki

(A drop in a great river), and

Gezan

no

shisō

(Thinking about descending the mountain), among others.

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