Sociology 308: Sex, Death and Human Nature. I don’t know if this was offered at your university, but it was at mine. And though I never got around to taking it, the title of the class alone was provocative enough. Indeed, the fact that I can still remember the course number all these years later testifies to that. And those are the major events for our narrator, Toru, and the people in his circle. Midori talks, and obsesses, about sex constantly, coming across as a virginal teen, desperate to show how unafraid she is. But she is hit hard with the impending death of her father, who had never gone to South America. Taking Toru to the hospital with her, he gives her respite and offers to watch her father while giving her a chance to not think, to empty herself of feelings. Feeding him cucumbers, Toru quietly comforts the old man, the former soldier.
A personal note: I have not directly confronted the death of a parent, both of mine are still alive, though in their 70’s. But I have been close to one who has. A year ago, my father-in-law had a heart attack in the middle of Costco, dying within minutes. Nine months before that, my wife’s mother passed away. An only child, both times C. had to fly out to deal with the minutia of death. Both times she had to delay grief.
Toru is colloquial Japanese for to pass through* which we are seeing with our narrator, never so well illustrated as in the dinner to celebrate Nagasawa passing the Foreign Ministry exam. Dinning with Nagasawa and his girlfriend, the beautiful Hatsumi, we are put into a horrible, uncomfortable scene as Hatsumi, as polite as ever, cuts into her boyfriend’s philandering. And in a rare moment of pulling us into the present, he shows us the future, the sad life of Hatsumi.
Let’s meet back here next week, to discuss the final two chapters.
* Lange, Noss, A textbook of colloquial Japanese, pg 526.