cover image Isle of Dreams

Isle of Dreams

Keizo Hino, trans. from the Japanese by Charles de Wolf, Dalkey Archive, $14.95 trade paper (168p) ISBN 978-1-56478-603-6

In Hino's acclaimed 1985 novel, translated into English for the first time, Tokyo is both a setting and a living being, at once evolving and dying in the eyes and mind of Shozo Sakai. Sakai is a middle-aged widower working for a Tokyo construction firm, whose life, while satisfying, is mundane. His true passion lies within the high-rises his company constructs, and he finds himself drawn to a piece of reclaimed land, the landfill island that gives the book its title. There he meets Yoko Hayashi, a mysterious young beauty. Sakai immediately becomes fascinated with her and allows himself to be drawn into her intriguing life, discovering a Tokyo he's never known. As inventive as the late author's efforts to anthropomorphize Tokyo are, they consume his focus; the human characters never develop and attempts to parallel two stories don't come together. Hino's illustration of the heartbreaking desecration of a Tokyo still haunted by its past is a real achievement, though, and readers will feel genuine empathy for the city. (Dec.)