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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Love at Six Thousand Degrees

Kashimada Maki

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To purchase Love at Six Thousand Degrees

Title: Love at Six Thousand Degrees
Author: Kashimada Maki
Genre: Novel
Written: 2005 (Eng. 2023)
Length: 127 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Love at Six Thousand Degrees - US
Love at Six Thousand Degrees - UK
Love at Six Thousand Degrees - Canada
from: Bookshop.org (US)
  • Japanese title: 六〇〇〇度の愛
  • Translated by Haydn Trowell

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Our Assessment:

B : odd but effective

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Japan Times . 28/6/2023 Kris Kosaka
The NY Times Book Rev. . 9/4/2023 Jane Hu

  From the Reviews:
  • "In addition to Kashimada’s literary and cultural allusions, an intriguing aspect of the narrative is her foray into metafiction. (...) Kashimada’s narrative ploy is satisfying in its implications on identity and humanity’s search for connection through storytelling. Love at Six Thousand Degrees, translated by Haydn Trowell, will not satisfy every reader with its at times overwrought philosophical musings, but it is a compelling novel" - Kris Kosaka, The Japan Times

  • "Despite the basic premise that Duras’s story provides, things get progressively murkier -- and periodically lost in translation -- over the course of Love at Six Thousand Degrees. (...) Kashimada’s novel unravels like an extended exercise in what it means to attempt to describe the indescribable. Its plot tends less toward closure than relentless repetition." - Jane Hu, The New York Times Book Review

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:

       The jacket-copy of Love at Six Thousand Degrees notes that it is: "Inspired partly by Marguerite Duras's screenplay for "Hiroshima, Mon Amour" and there are certainly echoes of it here, both in the central encounter of the story-- two strangers coming together -- and the enormous shadow of an atomic bombed city that looms over it. In this case it is Nagasaki, the city the main protagonist travels to.
       The novel begins with a domestic scene, a woman cooking and looking after her young child. The emergency alarm goes off in their apartment complex, and although it is a simple malfunction:

the alarm in the woman's mind it won't stop ringing. It urges her to act, quickly. The scene that a moment earlier had been drowned out from her head is born again.
     She leaves the child with an acquaintance, and alone, packs her suitcase. Then, she departs. In the back of her mind, her thoughts are consumed by a mushroom cloud, slowly swaying, slowly expanding.
       While the story begins in the third person, describing 'the woman' it soon begins to switch back and forth between first and third person, the woman presenting her story from her two perspectives -- imagining writing about a: "woman who looks like me, who might even be me". The dual perspectives are an effective way of presenting the story, both intimately -- as 'I' -- and almost impersonally, in describing what 'the woman' does. As she notes: "I watch my own story from the outside, like a spectator. Remarking that it seems indifferent to persuasion. Wondering who the author is".
       A central trauma the woman is dealing with is the suicide of her older brother, a hopeless alcoholic. Her own obsession here -- suddenly abandoning her housewife-life and traveling to Nagasaki, and becoming involved with a young man with a skin condition there -- is similar in its intensity to her brother's all-consuming addiction. Her trip to Nagasaki is an attempt at self-discovery, at ordering the confusion of her life and mind -- as she also diagnoses there:
There is no essence to my words. Only fragmentary memories. No timeline. There is a book in my mind, its pages in disarray. I don't know my own ending yet. Is it the death of my brother ? My life with my healthy and good husband ? Or is it even further into the future ?
       She is drawn and travels to Nagasaki, and meets a youth there. His mother is from the former Soviet Union, and she married a Japanese man and settled in Japan. Though fluent in Japanese, he also has identity issues:
In Russia, they say I have yellow skin. In Japan, people say I'm white. Even I wonder what color my face is.
     You don't know anything about yourself, do you ?
     You won't even make up your own mind.
     I can't.
       They begin an intimately physical yet also cautious relationship. So, for example, the first time they have sex they do so: "without the act proceeding to its ultimate conclusion" ("The youth didn't seem to share the common goal of most men, the insertion of the penis, and so no sooner did he make sure that she was satisfied than he went to take a shower"), and later:
They may have devoured each other's flesh, but they didn't hold hands or brush up against one another playfully. Because they weren't lovers. The intersection of their lives was only here in Nagasaki, only now, for this one brief instant.
       She is: "a woman who came to this land trying to quench the thirst of six thousand degrees" -- and the youth is the personal stand-in for the larger vision she is grappling with:
Is it a human body that I am devouring ? Really ? Isn't it this state of being, this land ... Nagasaki ? It's Nagasaki that I am devouring. And you, no one, you ... are Nagasaki.
     Nagasaki, that's my name.
     Maybe I'll dismantle you. Maybe then I'll find meaning.
       The narrator concludes thinking that: "I will write, someday. A novel. [...] I will write it as a love story between a woman and a man" -- but of course at that point the novel has already been written, the story told, a clever reminder of how circular (and continuing) this search for meaning and identity is.
       While Love at Six Thousand Degrees explores many of the themes found in much other modern Japanese fiction, Kashimada's Duras-inflected prose and approach give it a very different feel than most of what is available in translation. The shifting perspectives, between the anonymity of 'the woman' and the confessional 'I', are effective -- not least in keeping the reader off-balance. It all makes for a strange piece of work -- that sense of strangeness, of course, also intentional -- but a quite accomplished one.

- M.A.Orthofer, 14 February 2023

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Love at Six Thousand Degrees: Reviews: Other books by Kashimada Maki under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Kashimada Maki (鹿島田真希) was born in 1976.

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© 2023 the complete review

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