In this ‘autobiographical’ novel, published by Shinchosha, which is probably Shiraishi’s most personal work to-date, the author, who is known for penning deeply thoughtful books about love, life and the human condition, reflects on the life of an author, Hogo Nonomura, the son of a novelist like Shiraishi himself whose father also won the Naoki prize, and his career as a writer and novelist.
Shiraishi in a somewhat confessional tone, through the lens of his author protagonist, wonders about the benefits of spending so much precious time working for a former boss at a publishing company, with colleagues, and others including loved ones.
He asks himself was it just so he could write? And what about the wife he can’t divorce, and his beloved girlfriend Kotori, ‘Little bird’, who he loves more than anything, but is now forced to live apart from? Did he just spend time with all of them simply to enable his writing?
This novel, which is replete with echoes of the grand themes explored in many of Shiraishi’s previous literary works, including for instance Stand-in Companion published by Red Circle; encompassing life and death, as well as dynamic and unusual relationships between men and women, has been called a ‘must-read’ for Shiraishi fans. And is leaving many of them speculating about how much of this latest work is true, a confession of sorts, and how much is simply fiction?
Are Nonomura’s conversations described in the novel with editors, colleagues and publishers, ‘never publicly aired before’, based on real ones or are they merely included as a narrative device allowing Shiraishi to comment on topics, many philosophical in nature, that are important to him about life, roles, relationships, awareness and existence, as well as how to find true happiness.
One Japanese reviewer writes: “awareness leads to ‘thinking’ and ‘understanding’ and perhaps even stretches to ‘judgment’. First of all, it is important to be ‘conscious’ about ones own circumstances, and if you read this work in that way, you will see this for yourself, and that it is a work that shows sentience and awareness of individuals you can no longer meet, or who are no longer close, can actually transcend our concepts of both time and distance”.
Can’t Write A Novel Without You is currently only available in Japanese.
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