"The nice thing about Tsutsui is that history and modernity combine effortlessly, as do drab reality and fantasy." The Daily Telegraph
"For all the deadpan simplicity of his prose, there is something rich and strange going on here . . . Imagine a manic JG Ballard, but one with an even darker past to work out . . . Another writer who springs to mind by way of comparison is Kurt Vonnegut . . . you won't have read anything quite like this. It's astonishing that no other publisher has seen fit to translate him into English. We've been missing out." Guardian
"The hell in Japanese writer Yasutaka Tsutsui's surrealist novella is not the conventional fire and brimstone version. In fact this hell is not very dissimilar to the world that the inhabitants have just left." Financial Times
About the Author
Yasutaka Tsutsui has won several literary prizes and was made a Chevalier Order of Arts and Literature by the French government. His books include Salmonella Men on Planet Porno. Evan Emswiler is a translator.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
In some respects, Hell is much better than this world we live inFeb. 3 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
Yasutaka Tsutsui's "Hell" is a wonderfully surreal novel which tells the story of three protagonists and their experience with the afterlife, though for a Western audience the title is misleading, in fact, the novel's portrayal of Hell is closer to the Western idea of purgatory. In this novel, Hell is not the realm of torture for the evil, but rather a world of ambivalence. The inhabitants of Hell remember their physical, mortal lives, but they simply have no more attachments to the physical world.
The novel may be a bit culturally distant for a Western audience, as Tsutsui's work does not follow conventional Western story conventions. If you really need a good illustration of this, watch Satoshi Kon's "Paprika" (seeing as it's an animated adaptation of Tsutsui's novel by the same name), and you will get an idea of what you're up against. This novel is not something that can just be read and taken 100% literally, it requires thought, literary analysis, and a willingness on the part of the reader to step out of their own cultural norms, and just let themselves be carried away with the story.
The novel doesn't require being an expert on Japanese culture, or even knowing much about Japan at all, just the ability to look at it from a closer perspective, as though it was part of your own culture. the purpose of this is to not focus on the cultural aspects of the novel so much as focusing on the metaphysical and surreal aspects of the supernatural.
A lazy reader, or even a reader who is over-thinking the subject matter may find "Hell" to be confusing, or boring, but this is because they are looking for a definite reason for the actions which occur in the novel, and with Japanese literature, and most importantly, with Tsutsui's work, the answer often does not exist.
Not everything is meant to be comprehended, but rather just to be experienced. This is not to say that the story exists just for the sake of existing, but rather that the answers to not exist in a conventional or rational sense. You receive no definitive ending to the novel, nor do you receive any closure of what becomes of the main characters, but what you will receive, if you read this novel the way it is meant to be read, you will likely attain some form of epiphany about yourself, the life you're leading, or about the world around you.
It has been said that journalists see the world in "shades of gray" rather than in "black and white", and that being the case, this novel, as well as many of Tsutsui's other works will help you see the world "in color", metaphorically speaking.
You're here, too?June 12 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
You may be dead and know it. You may be dead and not know it. You may be dead and think you're alive. You may be alive and think you're dead. You may even be more than one of these at the same time.
Told with flash backs, flash forwards and the here and now, we are given Tsutsui's vision of a Japanese afterlife. A varied group of folks are followed as they live, die and get a peek at each other's lives.
Quite post-modern in style, this is best suited for those with a liking for that genre; and those who have read modern Japanese writers. Though inventive and fun, it wasn't developed enough for a higher rating.
This is more a novella length book. It's small size, ample margins, largish font and double spacing throughout make it at best about 100 pages worth.
7 of 14 people found the following review helpful
This afterlife is pretty dullJan. 27 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
Hell is an unpleasant little book from start to finish. There are occasional flashes of humor or suspense, but for the most part, it's hard to get up the energy to keep turning the page.
Reviewer Christina Koning of The Times has written, "[C]ertainly gives an impression of what Hell might be like - if only through the mixture of unease, revulsion and boredom that it creates in the reader."
Tsutsui's depiction of hell is like Facebook in person, where all the people you've ever known gather and lounge around. It's almost like a continuation of life, except people have less motivation to do anything, and sometimes they feel badly, finally, about things they've already done. Even the most interesting characters remain sketches, not fully enough drawn for readers to be able to reconcile their widely divergent traits. For instance, one man suddenly sees his wife's beauty afresh, perhaps because the suffering he caused her in life has been lifted. He feels guilty because his loyal wife stayed with him even after he lost his job and became homeless; the two of them eventually froze to death one night in a park. Yet the same character, seeing a girl in hell standing near the door of a train in hell is also reminded of the countless times, when he was alive, that he molested young girls like this on trains, "snaking his hand up their skirts." He is filled with regret, and with relief that he "hadn't gone any further. He had certainly daydreamed about doing worse things."
As another man muses, "Everything that happened in the real world - everything that must still be happening there - seemed utterly insignificant. Could that be the true nature of Hell? To make people forget their attachments to their previous lives?"
The borders between life and the afterlife are shifting and fluid, and people move suddenly from one world to the other. One woman character is making love with her lover (fifteen years after his death) when her husband (dead twenty years) walks in and begins observing and talking with them. It isn't a dream, they both assure her, but it isn't reality either. "I'm alive but I can't get out of this bedroom ... This is my Hell," she concludes.
People stumble through hell almost as blindly as through life. Nobody learns much; at most people try to piece things together in an offhanded, dreamlike way. This glimpse into the afterlife offers little by way of insight or courage; it almost makes us want to cling in an un-Buddhistic way to life, in hopes of avoiding anything like this netherworld.