Shame in the Blood – Tetsuo Miura

July 15, 2010 § 13 Comments

She started to run down the hill. Startled, I wanted to shout out a warning, but found myself entranced at the sight of this woman as she made her way down the hill, her shawl fluttering from her neck, sleeves swaying wildly to right and left, and the hem of her kimono flapping violently as she ran. She ran like a woman who’d never worn a kimono in her life.

What would be going through your mind if four of your five siblings all disappear from your life? How would you feel if you found out that your sister committed suicide? That your brother betrayed your family? That yet another brother disappeared without a trace?

Shame in the Blood is exactly this story. Our narrator is convinced that the blood that passes through his veins are cursed. There is shame in his blood, it is his fate to life with it. He is willing to die, he wishes not to carry on living, not with this cursed blood. But there is a sudden twist: he meets a girl, Shino, and they get married. That is where the story all begins, and ends.

The book is basically a collection of six stories, but each one overlaps the other, creating a story that seems to go back and forth, from the present to the past, then back to the present again. First, we’re only shown the surface. Later through another story in another time, we are given snapshots – little yellowed photographs of our narrator when he was young and naive. We weave this into what we already know, and suddenly we understand what we could not before.

This happens continuously, from each story comes a new perspective, some added depth, and what you have in the end is a multi-layered story that couldn’t have been told in a single novel. The idea of splitting it into separate stories was one of genius, in my opinion. Though whether or not it was written with that intention in mind, I don’t know.

What’s interesting to note is Miura’s own history. From the back of the book:

Tetsuo Miura was born in 1931 in Aomori, Japan. After dropping out of Waseda University, he worked for a while as a schoolteacher, but when four of his five siblings committed suicide or ran away, he left teaching behind, fearing that his family carried a curse.

Was this story written as his own memoir? Or did he merely draw inspiration from his own experiences?

Rating: 4

* This work was translated by Andrew Driver

* Also for Bellezza‘s Japanese Literature Challenge 4

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§ 13 Responses to Shame in the Blood – Tetsuo Miura

  • sagustocox says:

    Sounds like an interesting book. I like when the short stories build upon one another. great review

  • chasing bawa says:

    I’ve never heard of this book so I’m really glad you read and posted about it! I love stories that explore secrets, especially family secrets. It would be interesting to find out more about the author (although his family history is sad.)

    • Michelle says:

      I picked this book up from the shelves rather out of coincidence. I was looking for another book by another author, and this book just jumped out at me. It started a little slow, then I started to get the hang of it. It’s definitely interesting.

  • Mel u says:

    I read this book last year-It is a good account of the effects of suicide on surviving family members-to me it did seem like six stories each published on their own and then put together as a novel as a marketing device-good review

    • Michelle says:

      I think they were published separately, and probably written separately too. Why they decided to put them together as one volume is anyone’s guess, but I think it worked out quite well.

  • mee says:

    I’ve been seeing this book several times, everytime I go to JPF. But then I saw Mel U’s review and it wasn’t great. It’s good to get a second opinion from you, though I don’t think it changes the book’s priority for me! (still somewhere down there below all the other Japanese greater books)

    • Michelle says:

      I didn’t read Mel U’s review of the book, but my own opinion of it is that it’s quite a good book, just not great. Like you said, there are other Japanese books out there.

  • Suko says:

    You have presented a book that I’ve never even heard of before. This collection of short stories sounds quite intriguing.

  • Not heard of this book, but it sounds both: intriguing and a little scary. Four of five siblings killing themselves? Jeez.

    It does sound twisted enough to be right up my alley though…

  • Mark David says:

    Nice. I like these collections where in the stories are interconnected. Kinda gives you the experience of both novels and short fiction šŸ™‚

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