And Your Bird Can Sing

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And Your Bird Can Sing
Author: Yasushi Satō
Specifications: ISBN  978-4309410791
226 pages
10.5 x 14.9 cm / 4.2 x 5.9 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Kawade Shobo Shinsha, Publishers
Tokyo, 2011
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Shortlisted for the prestigious Akutagawa Prize when it was first published, this work has returned to the limelight nearly 20 years after author Yasushi Satō’s death and is now slated to be made into a feature film for release in 2018. The triangular relationship between three 21-year-olds—the unnamed narrator, his male roommate Shizuo, and a woman named Sachiko who works at the same bookstore as the narrator—is reminiscent of François Truffaut’s Jules et Jim (1962).

The narrator and Shizuo first met when they were both working in the cold storage warehouse of an ice-cream company. They became roommates at the narrator’s suggestion. The narrator has subsequently switched to a job in a bookstore, and Shizuo is now unemployed. Ignoring the fact that Sachiko seems to be involved with the store manager, the narrator seeks out her company and in due course they become intimate. That summer, the proprietor of a bar the narrator frequents goes on a trip with Shizuo and Sachiko, but the narrator stays behind. When they return, Sachiko tells him that she is going to move in with Shizuo.

A short while later a news report reveals that Shizuo has gone on the lam after killing his mother, who was suffering from dementia. Sachiko immediately heads for Shizuo’s childhood home. Shizuo is arrested shortly after putting in a phone call to the narrator.

In a memorable scene midway through the tale, the three main characters walk along a busy street in the rain with Sachiko in the middle and the two men crowding under her umbrella on either side. The scene raises the question of what exactly the two mean to the narrator—but the answer is never clearly stated.

The book includes a second novella, Kusa no hibiki (The Sound of the Grass), which portrays a young man diagnosed with autonomic imbalance who tries to recover his health through daily jogging.

Who am I, and what does this life hold in store for me? By grappling head-on with these questions that reflect both the tremendous promise and the deep-seated angst of youth, Satō has produced a work that overflows with universal appeal.