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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

Triangle

by
Matsuura Hisaki


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Triangle



Title: Triangle
Author: Matsuura Hisaki
Genre: Novel
Written: 2001 (Eng. 2014)
Length: 233 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Triangle - US
Triangle - UK
Triangle - Canada
Triangle - India
  • Japanese title: 巴
  • Translated by David Karashima

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Our Assessment:

B : reasonably intriguing, with some decent suspense

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Japan Times . 17/5/2014 David Cozy
Publishers Weekly . 14/4/2014 .


  From the Reviews:
  • "That the mysteries of Triangle are not easy to resolve will be, for some readers, frustrating. Others, however, will find that Matsuura’s willingness to eschew facile resolution at the novel’s end, and to allow, instead, the mystery to remain is what makes this one of those rare novels that one wants to reread as soon as the last page is turned." - David Cozy, The Japan Times

  • "(A) suspenseful and phantasmagorical work (...) Fans of Murakami will find this an esoteric and experimental read that will leave them pondering the book's unanswered questions long after reading." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Triangle is narrated by Otsuki Shun, a University of Tokyo dropout and former drug addict in his mid-thirties who is basically getting by on handouts from the women he gets involved with. He happens to run into a co-worker from his stint at the very dubious Oriental Economic Research Institute, Sugimoto, who remembers that Otsuki knows some French and wants to set him up with a little translation job. It turns out to be something more complicated than that: the man Sugimoto sends him to is named Koyama, and he's working on a film. Otsuki gets to watch what they have so far -- though even as he is shocked by what he sees he also finds himself dozing off during the screening -- and Koyama makes his pitch. Not that that helps much:

So, overall, I wasn't clear on anything. What he did seem to be saying was that the film was not complete, that further filming and editing were needed, that completion of the project would take several months, and that he wanted me to help with the "task".
       Meeting the girl introduced as Koyama's granddaughter, Tomoe, doesn't help convince him: she is the teen that appeared in the pornographic sections of the film he saw. Nevertheless, he lets himself get drawn into the project, and takes part in it for a while.
       Matters get more complicated when he finds that the woman he's been seeing, Hiroko, is also somehow involved. Hiroko has now left her husband -- and took something with her which he now wants back, badly, and he pushes Otsuki to get it back to him. Otsuki, however, has no idea what the guy is talking about; here, too, he finds himself in way over his head -- and the warning: "Terrible things happened here" comes way too late for him.
       Otsuki -- like the reader -- wonders:
But why ? Why me ? Why did they choose me ? What did they have against me ? What did they have to gain from using me like this ?
       In fact, Otsuki holds some of the answers to these questions: there are a few details about his past he failed to mention early on, and they certainly come into play here, in what turns out to be a rather elaborate set-up of sorts. But, yeah, someone is messing with him something bad.
       Triangle is a thriller of sorts, with a decent if a bit confusing plot. Several of the actors aren't quite who they seem, and it takes a while for Otsuki to learn (more or less) the truth; of course, he too wasn't entirely upfront about himself, either. As Otsuki is told (too late, of course): "It's all a lie".
       Triangle is also a more abstract, metaphysical thriller. Koyama is presented as a celebrated calligrapher, and his film is a sort of culminating art-work. Central to it is Tomoe (and/or tomoe ...) -- and, indeed, the novel is titled 'Tomoe' in the original; given its centrality, it's a shame Dalkey didn't dare to go with that -- or, preferably, just the kanji 巴 itself -- as a title.
       Koyama explains to Otsuki:
What I wanted to do was to turn Tomoe into a single, perfect kanji ... I'll even go so far as to say this is the ultimate objective of my life. And Mr. Otsuki, it maybe something that only you can do.
       The 巴-aspect of the novel gets a bit lost in translation, with Koyama's explanations not quite as effective in Latin script and a different language, e.g.:
This kanji for tomoe. It in itself is a spiral. A movement. Try writing tomoe with a brush. It signifies the movement of the brush starting at the center and moving in a counter-clockwise arc. In other words, it is the movement of the universe. Or put another way, the universe is tomoe. Everything in this universe, every existence, exists within tomoe.
       (There is a set stroke-order for each kanji -- see for example -- and the calligrapher's art entails much more than it does with the Latin script. Of course, maybe not this much more .....)
       It makes for an odd mix of a novel. On the one hand, it reads, for the most part, as a solid little thriller, Otsuki pulled into a complicated scheme as a disposable element that fits the bill in more respects than even he first realizes. But things also get quite surreally out of hand, as Koyama's grand design is a bit more complicated (or convoluted). The mix does allow for an effective underlying violence and depravity that Otsuki doesn't even recognize at first (even though he, too, has it in him, in one of the nice touches of the novel).
       It doesn't all quite work -- just as the whole 巴-idea(l) gets a bit lost in the English re-telling -- but it's still a decent, unsettling read, with a few very nice touches.

- M.A.Orthofer, 2 May 2014

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Links:

Triangle: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Matsuura Hisaki (松浦寿輝) was born in 1954.

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© 2014 the complete review

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