One Love Chigusa
Soji Shimada (Author), David Warren (Translator)
Red Circle, 115 pages
Review by Noel Chidwick
You’ve had a major motorbike accident, and your body is ripped to pieces. You’re salvaged, and most of your body is replaced by metal and plastic, your memories handed back to you on a hard drive. Just how human are you? What happens to love?
That’s the setup for this pocket format novella by Japanese writer Soji Shimada.
Xie Hoyu is the unfortunate character who, 70 years into our future suffers this fate. His reconstruction is passed over in a few pages, and we’re into the questions quickly. Autonomous and physical functions return, and he wants to see stars and landscapes and the expanse of the sea, but humans? Not so much. He has no desire to gaze on a woman’s face or for any human company. He’s released from hospital.
One Love Chigusa is written – or at least translated – to read passively, one step removed from the action, as if we’re walking beside Xie Hoyu. This only adds to the unsettling atmosphere as Xie Hoyu struggles to adapt to his new reality – not helped by the distorted faces of people he perceives as he wanders the city streets, questioning his own existence, and the point of it all. In amongst those unreal faces he sees Chigusa, and he is captivated by her beauty – her face remains untouched by his facial perception issues. His self-confidence shattered, too frightened to speak, he instead follows her. Yes, the story does become a little stalky, which Xie Hoyu admits to himself, but when he does meet Chigusa, the story is tender.
We follow the couple as they rotate around their understanding of themselves and of love. When you’re not sure how much of you is you and not some half-construct of software and extrapolated memories, what does love mean?
The reader is gently drawn into the story, and at the end we’re pleased we were invited along for the company.
One Love Chigusa is a beautifully crafted tale, that lingers fondly in the memory.