Try as I might I cannot get it out of my head that Kanehara is, at least partially, the real-life inspiration for Fuka-Eri in 1Q84. And that, you’ll understand, creates all sorts of associations and images in my head, very few of which are anything other than uncomfortable.
‘It’s all a lie, of course,’ I add.
‘I thought so.’
We both laugh and I down my champagne.
We then progress backwards through the narrator’s formative years (a structural trick which would have been perhaps more diverting if I hadn’t just reread Use of Weapons) in order to find out exactly what real/fabricated incidents have caused this real/fabricated character to end up so damaged.
Because she is damaged, and this is why it’s hard to talk this book up as anything more than an interesting exercise in metafictional identity: it’s just impossible to care about Rin or what happens to her. The best unreliable narrators have this slow-build offness about them – early on they’re just plausible enough that you want to believe them later when the more blatant untruths come tumbling out – but Rin goes from 0 to Psycho in less than 3.5 pages. Her entire character is posited on being hysterically unhinged, and that doesn’t leave much for the reader. It’s not, of course, necessary to like every character, but some sort of connection is necessary and there just wasn’t any here for me. You need some kind of a way in to the character or the story. I’ve seen Kanehara compared to Ryu Murakami before, and I can certainly see that there are some similarities, but Murakami at least remembers to throw in some jokes every once in a while. Some would have been very welcome here to leaven the on occasion frankly tedious drunken introspection that’s sometimes thrust upon us for page after page. The constant musings on suicide and rape don’t come across as shocking so much as dull. I guess there’s an argument to be made that in presenting this milieu in such an uncritically detached manner it’s rendered all the more shocking – the horrific through being rendered mundane becomes even more terrifying – but that doesn’t work either.
Her daddy didn’t love her, basically, and while I wouldn’t wish to belittle the damaging effects that may have on real people in the real world, it doesn’t work as a narrative hook in Autofiction no matter how much Kanehara might try to co-opt some of the patina of true-life to provide some interest. I can’t entirely dismiss this book, as there is always that through-going tension between the real and the fictional and how we chose to perform our identities for ourselves and others, but without that frankly there’s not much here. Misery meta-memoir clearly isn’t my thing.