cover image The Enlightenment of Katzuo Nakamatsu

The Enlightenment of Katzuo Nakamatsu

Augusto Higa Oshiro, trans. from Spanish by Jennifer Shyue. Archipelago, $18 trade paper (150p) ISBN 978-1-953861-52-8

Peruvian writer Oshiro explores issues of grief, ethnic identity, and aging in his feverish English-language debut. While walking through a park in Lima, professor Katzuo Nakamatsu, 58, is overcome by the sensation that he’s dead. Despite recognizing the insanity of this feeling, he can’t shake it, and he descends into a state of perpetual listlessness. Is it an omen or a self-fulfilling prophecy when he returns to campus and is abruptly laid off because of his age? A long period of aimlessness and self-reflection follows. He traces a large part of his alienation to his identity as the son of Japanese immigrants, reminding himself that “the Japanese weren’t wanted anywhere... nobody opened their arms.” The prose itself is dreamlike, with long complex sentences evoking a lush garden, the bustle of a college campus, or the dangerous streets of Lima’s seedy district, as Katzuo searches for his former self and lingers on memories of his wife, who died years earlier from cancer. Even when Katzuo is admitted to a psychiatric hospital, there’s a peaceful lyricism to the storytelling. Also moving is the solace Katzuo finds in the work of Martín Adán, his literary idol, whose wandering “reached the other side of human wretchedness.” Oshiro, too, touches the reader’s soul. (May)