Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Books: "At The End Of The Matinee" By Keiichiro Hirano


At The End Of The Matinee

By Keiichiro Hirano

Amazon Crossing; 316 pages; hardcover, $24.95; paperback, $14.95; Kindle eBook, $4.99; available Thursday, April 15th

At The End Of The Matinee, which was a runaway bestseller in Japan, winner of the Watanabe Junichi Literary Prize and adapted into a recently-released movie, is the second of Keiichiro Hirano's novels to be translated into English. A Man, which was the winner of Japan's Yomiuri Prize for Literature, was the first one to be so honored.

Hirano is an award-winning and bestselling novelist, whose debut novel, The Eclipse, won the prestigious Akutagawa Prize in 1998, when he was just a twenty-three-year old college student. Japan's Ministry of Cultural Affairs appointed him a cultural envoy to Paris, and he has given lectures throughout Europe.

The gorgeously written novel At The End Of The Matinee reflects both the state of the world and the emotional landscape of the characters Hirano created. He brings his profound knowledge of, and intense passion for, classical music to a timeless love story that will resonate in readers' hearts and minds.

Classical guitarist Satoshi Makino has toured the world and is at the height of his career when he first meets journalist Yoko Komine, and she is drawn to his tender music and his sensitivity. Satoshi is enchanted by her refinement and intellect. 

Satoshi and Yoko are both in their 40s and form an instant bond, but Yoko is engaged to be married. They still begin a conversation that will go on for years, even as their jobs take them all over the world. 

Miscommunications, missed opportunities, and unexpected obstacles bring their conversation to an abrupt end, and they are resigned to bottling up their feelings deep in their hearts and continue on their separate paths. Eventually, fate brings them back together, as it always does when it's true love.

The powerful backdrop of this romantic tale is marked by worldwide historic events of the late 2000s and early 2010s, including the Iraq war, refugee issues, the financial crisis, and the Great East Japan earthquake. 

At The End Of The Matinee is a sophisticated and elegant reflection on the connections between love and art, passion and music, and the source of creative inspiration. 

World Book Day - Starting Thursday, April 15, Amazon is kicking off a ten-day long celebration of World Book Day, which is next Friday, April 23rd, in which they will be giving away ten Kindle books, including At The End of the Matinee, to any reader who wants to discover authors and stories from many countries around the world. Click here to find out details about #ReadTheWorld 2021.

Keiichiro Hirano.

In this excerpt, Keiichiro Hirano writes of the inspiration for his compelling story: "This is the story of two people whom I call Satoshi Makino and Yoko Komine. To protect their privacy, I have altered various details: their names, to begin with, as well as the organizations they belong to, the chronology of events, and so forth.

If I were to be absolutely faithful to the truth, I myself would have to make an appearance in certain scenes, but no such person exists in the novel.

My purpose in writing their story was not to lay their lives bare. Realizing that the story is not completely 'true' may lessen its interest for some readers. But while fiction makes it possible to refrain from revealing some secrets, it is the only way to revealing some secrets, it is the only way to reveal others. I wished, while guarding the outer details of my friends' lives, to write freely about their inner emotional lives by presenting them as fictional characters.

When Satoshi and Yoko first met, they were, to borrow from Dante's Divine Comedy, 'midway in the journey of our life,' losing sight of 'the straight way.' Both were around forty, an age of peculiarly delicate anxiety. Whether they envisioned the bright hustle and bustle of their lives continuing or coming to an end, they felt dispirited. And just as in those opening lines, though it was 'a hard thing to speak of' they found themselves lost in that 'dark wood.'

What name should I give the feeling that my friends had for each other? Was it friendship? Was it love? They maintained a strong relationship of trust that brought equal parts suffering and healing, and, at times, even a semblance of hatred; but investigating only the outer aspect of that relationship would tell us nothing.

I came to know Satoshi first, and later, Yoko. I was therefore in a position to fully sense why the two of them were so drawn to each other. 

Brilliance and desolation appear intermittently in the record of their lives. Joy and sadness play tug-of-war. This is all the more reason why the alignment of their souls possesses a quality that is rare in today's world - a quality that I shall call, if I may, beauty.

I sympathized with them, grew disgusted with them sometimes, and yet I admired them. Nothing is as tedious as the romance of others, but in their case it was different. Why? Over the course of a few years, I experienced several enormous disappointments, and pondering their romance in spare moments offered a brief escape.

From the first, theirs were lives I was incapable of leading, yet even now I often wonder what I would have done if those things had happened to me. 

Their lives contain riddles, some of which I never did fathom. They were such distant figures, even for me, that the reader should beware of hurrying to feel a direct sympathy for them, lest they elude the reader altogether.

As time went on, my desire to write about them grew, and when the time felt right, I picked up my pen."

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