The latest addition to my website is Kyūsaku Yumeno‘s ドグラマグラ (Dogra Magra). This is another Japanese epic – seven hundred pages in the Japanese original – which is both an incredibly complicated detective story as well as a searing indictment of contemporary (i.e. Japan in the 1930s) psychiatry where the doctors may well be more deranged than the inmates. Our narrator, initially unnamed, but who may (or may not) be Ichiro Kure, is a total amnesiac in the University of Kyushu psychiatric ward. He does not even remember his name but the doctor tells him that he has committed one or more terrible crimes but that he may (or may not) have been under the control of someone who had found out how to control the human psyche. We follow his narration but we also follow the often deranged notes of the doctors, both the current one and his colleague who may (or may not) have killed himself recently. Frequently, we not only have no idea about what is going on but neither we nor the characters know the real identity of the other characters. Nor is it clear who is the murderer, who the victim and who the detective. Ghosts of the deceased, a mysterious pained scroll of a dead woman, an apparently harmless old labourer, and the usual who is related to whom conundrum all add to our confusion. It is a superb and complex work, partially One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Чапаев и Пустота (UK: The Clay Machine-Gun; US: Buddha’s Little Finger) (both of which it preceded by many years) but so much more. Sadly, it is not available in English.
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This is a great work. And the French translation is superb too,