This latest work by the highly-regarded Japanese author Shiraishi, who is known for penning deeply thoughtful books about love, life and the human condition, is the tale of a couple who after 22 years of married life find themselves caught up in a spiral of consequences brought on by the Coronavirus, as well as the husband’s cancer diagnosis.
Returning to My First Cry explores the narrative themes and emotions surrounding the haunting conjecture: if only life could be repeated, and one could re-start one’s life from the point of the first breath, or cry as a newborn child, or from some other pivotal point in time.
This new work of about 400-pages of genkoyoshi, Japanese manuscript paper, in length, reflects many of the concerns the author, who is now in his early 60s, has discussed publically or been asked about in interviews since the publication in 2020 of Can’t Write A Novel Without You, Kimi ga inaito shosetsu wa kakenai, which can best be described as a highly reflective work of auto-fiction that provides an “insider’s” perspective of Japan’s world of letters from a prominent member of its literati.
In interviews in leading Japanese magazines such as Nikkan Gendai and Toyo Keizai, Shiraishi has discussed openly his career path from his early days as a celebrated wunderkind editor at the influential magazine, Bungei Shunju, and subsequently its literary editor; as well as the dynamic of being a twin son of an acclaimed author, who also won the Naoki Prize: to finally becoming an established writer who some industry participants have described as super-talented, demanding and highly-strung, but a loyal individual.
In these interviews, as within his works of fiction, Shiraishi delves into topics spanning reputation, regret, compulsive self-indulgence, and the art of blundering through life while dealing with the mistakes left in the wake of one’s actions, until one reaches the point of understanding the essential benefits of trying to live in harmony with those around you.
Something that many, not just Shiraishi, struggle with no matter in which country they reside or industry they work within but which is apparently particularly important in Japan.
Shiraishi’s Returning to My First Cry, replete with echoes of the grand themes explored in many of his previous literary works, including Stand-in Companion published by Red Circle, looks at life and death through deftly drawn relationships between men and women that are both dynamic and unusual. His new work is already being dubbed another ‘first-class’ ‘must-read’ for Shiraishi fans.
Interestingly, alongside Returning to My First Cry a linked commentary-style review by Mitsuyo Kakuta, another high-profile Japanese author who is also a member of the curated group of award-winning Red Circle writers, has been published by Shosetsu Gendai in the same issue under the title: Can a Life be Manufactured? to the delight and honour of Shiraishi. Apparently, reading her review has triggered some readers to immediately want to re-read Shiraishi’s story.
Shosetsu Gendai, a literary magazine that celebrates Japanese narrative fiction and has been at the core of Kodansha’s fiction publishing strategy for some 55 years, was re-designed and re-launched in 2020.
It has been a vehicle for the publisher to discover and identify newcomers as well as promote some of Japan’s finest writers, many of whom have gone on to become future Naoki prize-winners and commercially very successful.
One such example is the 2014 Naoki prize-winner, Makate Asai, an Osaka born writer known for her historical fiction and in particular for her titles that have been adapted for television by NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster, including the much-admired Kurara: The Dazzling Life of Hokusai’s Daughter, Kurara: Hokusai no Musume, which has also been adapted for anime.
Returning to My First Cry, which delightfully quotes some delicately crafted and thought-provoking poignant poems from Wilted Sunflower, Kare-Himawari, a collection of poems by the 84-year-old Sapporo-based poet Yoshiko Kunikane, will be published in hardback book format, tanko-bon, this summer.
- About Red Circle:Red Circle Authors Limited is a specialist publishing and communications company that conducts bespoke projects on behalf of a carefully selected and curated group of leading Japanese authors. Red Circle showcases Japan’s best creative writing. For more information on Red Circle, Japanese literature, and Red Circle authors please visit: www.redcircleauthors.com.