29 May, Ryōsuke Kakine

文字数 4,396文字

The Runaway


I have been tied to my desk this entire day, writing. A deadline for the serial novel I am working on is coming up at the end of the month. At some point four or five days ago, the covid-19 state of emergency was lifted.
  Writing a novel is a slow process for me. Though I’ve been a writer for twenty years, my speed, I’m embarrassed to say, has not improved one bit. My average yearly output would be somewhere between six and seven hundred standard 400-character pages. That means one 600-page novel a year, or for a more substantial 1200-page book, one every two years.
  More experienced writers than I often used to warn me about this pace. “You gotta write more,” they’d say, “a lot more. Just get on with it.” Even now they sometimes admonish me. Recently a veteran writer I know told me with amusement, “I saw A-san the other day. He said to me, ‘I don’t think Kakine’s writing anything at all.’”
  There was nothing I could answer that with, apart from a rueful smile.

For me the act of writing a novel is in some ways similar to playing shōgi. First you must decide on the opening, which piece to move and how. It’s a question of style and instinct to some degree, but also a calculation based on how you anticipate the game developing. You watch the response and chew over the next course of action. In a process of trial and error, steadily you try and push through the strategy mapped out in your head.
  Most trying of all is the beginning section, the part that flows on from the opening move. For every word I put down, I sigh deeply thirty times an hour, fretting that things are not going in quite the direction I intended. Self-disgust usually peaks at this stage.
  Sometimes I just give up and escape. I go for a drive, or a swim, or a walk. Ultimately, however, I’m just a runaway kid. While I’m out having fun, the unfinished work gradually starts to weigh on me, but the only place I have to go back to is my writing desk. The stress brought on by work can only be released in the same way.
  Such distractions are nonetheless a brief reprieve, a chance for my overheated brain to cool down a bit. The toughest thing about the period of self-restraint was not being able to go out at all. Now the state of emergency is over I can go out for a walk at least, which makes a big difference.

Incidentally, during the state of emergency I became aware of something: I like a room with a view. Since I tend to be caged up for my work, it’s nice to be able to look vaguely through a window into the distance when I lift my head from the computer, and refresh myself with a view of the scenery. This, too, may be a momentary distraction, but one that also helps to prevent eyestrain.
  Looking through the window recently one day, I happened to notice something else. As usual I could see the harbor, the bridge over the sea, and the peninsula far on the distant horizon.
  But . . . ? Cars on the bridge going back and forth were particularly distinct that day. And the rest of the scenery also: the peninsula that usually appears as a misty blur, and even individual chimneys poking up from the cluster of factories along the coastline.
  Putting a brake on production and people’s movements had resulted in the air over the city becoming manifestly clearer. No doubt this same effect was being observed all around the world.
  It seemed to me that there are some things which will always be a give and take.


Translated by Alison Watts/Arranged by TranNet KK

Ryōsuke Kakine
Born in Nagasaki Prefecture, 1966. Graduated from Tsukuba University. Made his debut in 2000 with

Gozen

sanji

no

rūsutā

(The 3AM rooster), for which he won Grand Prize and Reader’s Choice Prize at the Suntory Mystery Awards. Claimed three prestigious Japanese mystery awards in 2004 for

Wairudo

souru

(Wild soul), which won the Haruhiko Oyabu Award, the Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers, and the Mystery Writers of Japan Award. Also winner of the Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize in 2005 for

Kimitachi

ni

asu

wa

nai

(None of you have a future) and the Honya ga erabu jidai shōsetsu taishō (Historical novel prize chosen by bookstores) in 2016 for

Muromachi

burai

(Muromachi outsiders). His other works include

Mitsuhide

no

teiri

(Mitsuhide’s theorem) and

Nobunaga

no

genri

(Nobunaga’s principle), among others.

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