The mysterious silence of an accused murder suspect in 1970s Japan is at the center of Silence Once Begun.
At the beginning of the novel, you say the story is partially based on fact. What are its real origins?
The facts that the book is based on are archetypal facts. The situations and extrapolations are based on the truth as it stands in the world.
Silence and the withholding of speech and information are important ideas in the book. Why were these ideas fascinating to you?
In all times in human experience, but especially in our particular time, the control of information and the idea of speaking and allowing information to come out, as well as the control of how it goes and to whom it goes, are very important issues, not only politically and globally, but also within our small and isolated lives. These are particular fascinations of our age and it’s worth our time to investigate them and mull on them, even as we fall down the well together.
Why is a large part of the book in the form of transcripts of interviews?
I began as a poet, and my previous novels rely in some sense on lyricism as a connective tissue. The place I was in writing this book—I wanted to depart entirely from that and work purely on plot and silence and speech. When I sat down and figured out what some of the tools would be that I would have to work with, I thought, we’re very used to comprehending transcripts. Maybe at one time a film script would have been a strange thing to read, but now I think we’re much more suited to reading and envisioning a film script. That all creates a reservoir of possibility. The air is rife with imagining of images and actions when you merely provide a transcript in the mind of the contemporary reader. I felt like it would be possible to move directly into a sort of cinematic content by using these transcripts.
What about the strange and evocative photos that appear midway through the book?
The mode of the book is to lay things before the reader, and then let the reader judge things within his or her powers. The photographic evidence is meant to strengthen and evoke not just the strangeness of seeing Japan, which is no stranger than any other place, but the general strangeness of seeing at all.