cover image Inhabitation


Teru Miyamoto, trans. from the Japanese by Roger K. Thomas. Counterpoint, $16.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-64009-217-4

The latest from Miyamoto (Kinshu: Autumn Brocade) has a surreal, promising conceit but never manages to wriggle free from banality. In the 1970s, college student Tetsuyuki moves to a dingy apartment on the outskirts of Daito in Osaka Prefecture, partly to avoid the underworld creditors hounding him and his mother. In a home improvement project gone wrong, Tetsuyuki inadvertently nails a lizard to the wall. Remorseful, he keeps the lizard alive, feeding it weevil larvae and other delicacies after his long shifts as a hotel bellboy. The lizard demonstrates a “tenacious vitality” that the formerly shiftless Tetsuyuki begins to exhibit more in his own life. He asserts himself at work, confronts a rival for his girlfriend Yoko’s affection, and faces down his dangerous creditors. Moreover, he begins having fleeting visions of enlightenment, dreams in which “dying and being reborn, he continually passed through the cycle of life and death as a lizard.” Throughout, the diction is overly stiff, whether it’s depicting Tetsuyuki challenging his girlfriend’s suitor (“Can your intellectuality trump my baseness?”), violent gangsters administering a beating (“Hey, hurry up and kick the bucket!”), or young men discussing the afterlife (“I wonder why people die”). This tale of a young man seeking enlightenment fails to illuminate. (July)