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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Trinity, Trinity, Trinity

Kobayashi Erika

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To purchase Trinity, Trinity, Trinity

Title: Trinity, Trinity, Trinity
Author: Kobayashi Erika
Genre: Novel
Written: 2019 (Eng. 2022)
Length: 224 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Trinity, Trinity, Trinity - US
Trinity, Trinity, Trinity - UK
Trinity, Trinity, Trinity - Canada
Trinity, Trinity, Trinity - France
from: Bookshop.org (US)
  • Japanese title: トリニティ、トリニティ、トリニティ
  • Translated by Brian Bergstrom

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Our Assessment:

B : creative, often compelling take

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Japan Times . 31/7/2022 Florentyna Leow

  From the Reviews:
  • "The writing in Trinity, Trinity, Trinity features many line breaks and short paragraphs -- a common feature in modern Japanese literary prose -- which bring a necessary energy and forward momentum to the book. (...) The novel has its standout moments, occasionally treating readers to vivid details. (...) However, the book’s narrative is marred by its gratuitous and often heavy-handed inclusion of literary allusions and historical references (.....) To Kobayashi’s credit, it’s not easy to write a serious, critical literary novel that also manages to be immersive and enjoyable. Trinity, Trinity, Trinity is a laudable stab at the task, and while it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, it will undoubtedly find its audience/" - Florentyna Leow, The Japan Times

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 mother of the narrator of (most of) Trinity, Trinity, Trinity has been doing poorly for a while now, having broken her leg the previous autumn, seemingly also triggering a rapid mental decline. To get their affairs in order, the narrator and her sister decided it was best to sell the family property and buy an apartment they can all share, including the narrator's thirteen-year-old daughter, and her mother -- the living situation they now found themselves in. When the novel opens, with a Prologue narrated by the mother, things have gotten worse for the old woman and the story proper then begins with her in hospital.
       Other old people have been acting strangely, and eventually the narrator has to worry that her mother has joined the 'Trinity'-ranks. Sufferers of this disease -- its technical name "was something long and in English, But the initialism derived from it spelled TRINITY" --:

begin to pick up rocks and hold them to their ears. They become attracted to materials with high levels of radioactivity, and they are driven to try to collect them. They begin to suffer from aural hallucinations, and eventually descend into a state of delirium, prone to erratic speech and behavior.
       This isn't the only 'Trinity' in the book: from the retro cybersex site with that name -- where all you can do is chat -- to the Trinity site where the first atomic bomb was tested, it echoes throughout the novel. So does radiation, from the Fukushima accident nine years earlier -- which was when the Trinity phenomenon among old people began -- to Chernobyl, old-fashioned radium dial watches, and Marie Curie and the pitchblende of Sankt Joachimsthal. A neat example is the artwork by someone called Re:, inspired by the silvery cement used to cover the area around the Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant, to prevent vegetation growing there and thus reduce radiation levels. Re: paints the kind of flowers and vegetation that normally grew there -- but then paints over these depictions, leaving just a silver surface, with all the paintings looking identical.
       The old Trinity-sufferers are drawn to radioactivity and try to spread it, in acts that amount to -- and are certainly seen as -- terrorism, and when the narrator's mother disappears from the hospital -- clearly heading for the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics -- the narrator becomes even more frantic. She has her own issues to deal with, too -- not least, dealing with the past:
     Why should I be forced to confront these bitter memories from so long ago ?
     Why must I dig these things back up that should have been thrown out, forgotten, buried deep in the ground ?
       This dealing -- and not dealing -- with the past --not least the fall-out (as it were) of the consequences of the atomic/nuclear age -- is a major theme of the novel.
       Trinity, Trinity, Trinity is set during the time leading up to the opening ceremonies of the 2020 Olympics -- with especially the Olympic torch relay repeatedly noted as it runs alongside the action. It should be noted that the novel was originally published in 2019; Kobayashi was writing prospectively, imagining the near future, this huge event looming; obviously, it reads somewhat differently now, after the fact. (Kobayashi was writing more prospectively than originally intended, of course: the "2020" Summer Olympics were then actually only held in the summer of 2021.) Among the novel's neat echoes in addressing (and avoiding) the past is that of the 1940 Olympics -- scheduled to be held in Tokyo but, of course, never actually taking place -- unlike, now, with the 2020 Olympics.
       Much of Trinity, Trinity, Trinity is written in single-(and often short) sentence paragraphs, often in staccato progression:
     We found a stack of lacy brassieres and girdles in a rainbow of colors.
     And behind them, a stone. A shiny, black stone.
     Black, like the darkest part of night.
     Black, like a curse.
     I grabbed it with my hand.
     I felt its stillness, its cold weight.
     I suddenly grew frightened. I felt a darkness, like a mysterious voice, entering my body from where my fingers closed over the stone's cold surface, and I screamed and threw it away from me onto the floor.
       Kobayashi weaves a curious story together, but much of it is compelling, especially in the tying in of the larger past with what amount to contemporary thriller elements. There is a lot here, however, from the narrator's family and workplace issues to her daughter's obsession with the band, Death Be Not Proud, who: "based their lyrics on Elizabethan poet John Donne's Holy Sonnets".
       Fairly effective in sum as a reflection on mankind's nuclear disaster (in its broadest and also specific senses) -- and not least the failure to come to terms with much of it --it is a bit loose as a work of fiction, the intriguing varied, smaller pieces and the larger concept not entirely satisfyingly coming together.

- M.A.Orthofer, 3 April 2023

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Trinity, Trinity, Trinity: Reviews: Kobayashi Erika: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Kobayashi Erika (小林エリカ) was born in 1978.

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© 2023 the complete review

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