An ordinary housewife finds herself haunted by visions of a mushroom cloud and abruptly leaves her husband and son to travel alone to the city of Nagasaki, where she soon begins an affair with a young half-Russian, half-Japanese man.
Kashimada’s book blurs the national and the personal in a way that suggests the continued difficulty of working through world-historical trauma ... Kashimada’s novel unravels like an extended exercise in what it means to attempt to describe the indescribable. Its plot tends less toward closure than relentless repetition. The same motifs and memories filter in and out ... At times, the narrative grows vertiginously unstable, as scenes recur and flashbacks fold in on themselves. This too is partly the point.
Love at Six Thousand Degrees, translated by Haydn Trowell, successfully pulls off what many works about generational trauma don't even try: It foregrounds the contemporary individual, connecting history and the present day in merely indirect and metaphorical ways. The result is no less powerful ... A profound and deeply intelligent work, a refreshing inversion of what has become traditional trauma narratives, in which history is presented as an inescapable, fatalistic force informing every contemporary outcome. The novel is also formally inventive, with the woman narrating her story in both first and third person.
While Love at Six Thousand Degrees explores many of the themes found in much other modern Japanese fiction, Kashimada's Duras-inflected prose and approach give it a very different feel than most of what is available in translation. The shifting perspectives, between the anonymity of 'the woman' and the confessional 'I', are effective -- not least in keeping the reader off-balance. It all makes for a strange piece of work -- that sense of strangeness, of course, also intentional -- but a quite accomplished one.