Two multi-layered stories showcasing the best contemporary Japanese writing. The First, a man and a woman meet in a nightclub in Tokyo. They go to a love hotel, and spend the next five days in a torrid affair. In the second story, a woman living in a damp flat obsesses on the filthy state of her dwelling.
A 30-year-old woman calls in sick to work and stays in bed all day. A couple enjoys four days of no-strings-attached romance after meeting at the theater. Although his plots aren’t much to speak of, the Japanese playwright Toshiki Okada’s first prose work to be translated into English roams into some dark, even disturbing, crevices of the mind ... Okada’s style is hyperrealistic, punctuated with 'likes' and 'whatevers,' and structured, like everyday speech, around rambling sentences that often go nowhere. He has spoken of the difficulties of translating his work into other languages, because of its 'super-real' style.. But this translation by Sam Malissa has a strange rhythm all its own. That End of the Moment was once a play comes through in its shifting perspective, which moves swiftly, drone-like, among characters. It’s the more successful of the two narratives — compact, ruthless, governed by a persuasive sense of dread. In that sense, Okada captures the ennui that has paralyzed a generation.
[The book's] two quirky tales, though little more than 50 pages apiece, are so richly layered and strangely beguiling that we are left craving more ... Samuel Malissa’s translation has fizz and verve, and each slangy meditation or exchange rings true. Unfortunately, the more vapid utterances grate ...The stories are at their best — and their most baffling — when Okada topples our expectations and proceeds by way of surprise steps and wrong turns ... Not all adds up, and not everyone makes sense, but the disorientation is half the fun.
The central theme of movement across bodies and minds – and the blurring of lines separating the individual from the collective – is realised in virtuoso shifts of narrative perspective. A startling opening passage, resembling a long tracking shot, moves from a disembodied description of the passage of a group of drunken men through Tokyo into the consciousness of a single character, from where it moves, in a spectacular coup de théâtre, into a first person monologue by a girl of their fleeting encounter two days earlier. Her intrusion into the story – and the fact that she doesn’t reappear, or at least not in the same guise – thoroughly disrupts the conventional unity of place and time that Okada seems initially to observe. It’s exhilarating. The story is both highly constructed – at one point, a character explains her use of a punctuation mark, flagging up to the reader that this is a written and mediated account – and disrespectful of conventional boundaries. The narration flows from one body into another, back and forth in time, creating a space in which anything seems possible and everything is in play. Whether or not this is a mere illusion of freedom is for the reader to decide.