From The Fatherland, With Love by Ryu Murakami

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From The Fatherland, With Love by Ryu Murakami

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: C E Stanway
Reviewed by C E Stanway
Summary: Speculative fiction focusing on North Korea's invasion of Japan in 2011.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 672 Date: May 2013
Publisher: Pushkin Press
ISBN: 978-1908968456

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From The Fatherland, With Love is a 2005 Japanese novel set in the then-near future of 2011. Fatherland (as I will abbreviate it) explores the social and political ramifications of one speculative scenario: what if North Korea invaded Japan?

Now, this may not sound feasible, and even if contains a sliver of plausibility, why would this make interesting reading? It depends, really, on what your level of interest in the ramifications of war is. War is an emotive word, bringing with it images of gunfire, pillaging and rape - but in the modern day, and certainly the modernity in Fatherland, war can also be silent and surreptitious. When the Koryo Expeditionary Force (as they call themselves) take hold of the furthest island in Japan's archipelago, Fukuoka, they do so with little opposition. Why? Because the Japan of this novel is bankrupt, ailing and weak due to the economic downturn. Inflation is high, employment is low, and there are thousands of homeless people living in parks across the nation. Ultimately, the financial mismanagement in America has wreaked havoc on Japan's investments, infrastructure and economy. And when the tides of power have turned, opportunistic old enemy North Korea is ready to take what it can.

The politic aspect of Fatherland is gripping, flitting from one group of characters to another. In Tokyo, Fatherland highlights the shortsightedness of the country's ministers and politicians, that have more in common with Britain's politically powerful than is comfortable. In North Korea and their claimed territory in Fukuoka, the North Korean armed forces are brutal and highly-trained - but also unused to dealing with the daily freedoms and decadence of modern Japan. The third group we meet are a band of young criminals living in Fukuoka - damaged boys society has cast aside, taken under the wing of eccentric poet Ishihara and it is through them we learn of the social aspect of the hostile takeover.

Ryu Murakami is an author I have read before, and is usually described as decadent with his almost operatic symphony of violence in several of his novels. In Fatherland, I believe he has honed his skill, still incorporating violence and brutality, but within a context that instigates introspection in the reader. The translation from Japanese to English is very smooth, with no errors or awkward phrasing, which is really a feat for the three translators. At 672 pages, Fatherland is a heavy tome of a book, but effortlessly gripping and well paced, not to mention more relevant than ever in today's society of economic desperation and riled-up revolutionaries. Highly recommended.

If this book appeals then you might also appreciate The Elimination by Rithy Panh

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