Title- The Narrow Road to The Deep North
This was one book that took a long while to finish. Admittedly, I solely picked it up because it was this year’s Man Booker Prize winner and I had to read it. The best part about the book is that it doesn’t have a story. It is just people living their lives. The language is unique. For the lack of a better word, I’d say the language is vague. Vague, but in a good sense. The author doesn’t take stands, he tells a story and that’s where the genius of the book lies. It is so real that it offends you.
It is about POWs, deaths in camps, mud, monsoons, huts and cholera. It is about history which cannot be undone. It is about people who acted in those circumstances. Those tortures, those horrors and life after that. The book also has a love story. A guy in love with his uncle’s wife. It is intense and sometimes weird. Life is unfair and bad stuff keeps happening yet, the facts are chronicled in a detached yet beautiful way.
Sympathy and warmth are evoked only in those who already have them brimming in their souls. The novel is a gentle reminder that there is much wrong in the world and that humans are complex beings. There are many lines in the book that are worth preserving. The plight of Koreans who were just stuck in the middle with no nationality to assert in the war is also well depicted.
The poems in the narrative evoke thought and are quoted from classical or famous works. Those provide much fodder for thought but call for serious reading and sometimes googling references too. It is a serious read with serious things to say. Sometimes it is blunt, sometimes the language is artistic. It is a disjointed work seemingly arising out of the need of it instead of author’s creative compulsions. It is as if the author would have exploded if he hadn’t written this book.
It also took a long period to write and that shows in the writing.