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?
* This work was translated by Andrew Driver