J G Ballard’s Space-Sickness Trilogy

Booklet published by Interzone, 1982

Between 1981 and 1982, J G Ballard wrote what David Pringle, in his Ballard Chronology (published in the Deep Ends anthologies), has referred to as a “time trilogy of long short stories”: News from the Sun, Myths of the Near Future, and Memories of the Space Age. Ballard himself lumped these together in a 1984 interview, saying his recent work included “three long stories all about the same theme, really — … Light and time.” Not a trilogy in any conventional sense (they have different characters, and the nature of the “space sickness” in each story’s world is slightly different) they nevertheless share so many elements that they belong together in the same way the stories in The Atrocity Exhibition do. They could even be seen as a later, more thoroughly digested (and conventionally narrated) treatment of the same Atrocity Exhibition material, with their gone-rogue doctors/architects/pilots engaging in highly conceptual (not to say insane) artistic projects intended to solve some combination of personal trauma and cultural/global malaise.

[Note: I got the order these three stories were written in wrong. “Myths of the Near Future” was actually written first. See David Pringle’s comment below.]

All three of these early 80s stories are set in the now-unpopulated areas around an abandoned Cape Kennedy, years after the cessation of the US Space Programme. In all three a space-sickness, identified in some way with our venturing outside the Earth’s atmosphere, has taken grip on the world’s population, its symptoms consisting of an ever-increasing retreat from the world and an altered perception of time, which are in many ways reminiscent of the “supersaturation of time” portrayed in Ballard’s most hallucinogenic disaster novel, The Crystal World.

Ambit #87

In News from the Sun (first published in Ambit #87 in Autumn 1981), people are falling into a series of ever-lengthening “fugues”, mental absences during which they simply stop mid-action, coming back to consciousness minutes or hours later. Once started, these fugues increase daily to the point of total retreat from waking life. The protagonist, Robert Franklin, is a former NASA physician now caring for space-sickness patients in the environs of a derelict Cape Kennedy, while staving off his own increasing fugues. One of his patients is Trippett, the last astronaut to walk on the moon, whose daughter visits every day, urging Franklin to drive her father around at dangerous speeds (and anything over 10mph is dangerous, given that Franklin could fugue at any moment), in the belief it will counter the sickness. Trippet, on the verge of a fugue, seems to see the desert landscape around the space station full of lush vegetation.

The one man who’s managed to stave off the sickness is Slade, a former air-pilot. Frustrated in his desire to walk on the moon by having been declared (by Franklin) unfit for space travel, Slade engages in a whirlwind of semi-artistic activity including the assembly of “shrines” of seemingly unrelated objects, the building of an airport made of wood, and flying a man-powered aircraft rather too low over Franklin, while wearing nothing but a pair of aviator’s goggles. All this, Slade claims, is part of his own “space programme” (in the same way the Atrocity Exhibition protagonists were all trying to enact their own version of World War III, or some other disaster).

Interzone #2

In Memories of the Space Age (first published in Interzone #2 in Summer 1982), the space-sickness is a subjective slowing of time, leaving people paused in (as they perceive it) a single moment, only to emerge hours later back into the consensus timeline. The protagonist is, again, an ex-NASA physician, Edward Mallory, who has returned with his wife to live in an empty hotel near the now-abandoned Cape Kennedy. This time, there are two characters flying their self-powered aircraft dangerously low over the protagonist’s head. The first is Gale Shepley, who calls herself Nightingale — “a punk madonna of the airways”, as Ballard puts it — the daughter of the first astronaut to be murdered in space. The other is Hinton, her father’s murderer, whose pet impossible/conceptual project is to achieve wingless flight, which he’s attempting to do by piloting a series of ever more primitive flying machines.

F&SF Oct 1982

In Myths of the Near Future (published in F&SF in October 1982), the space-sickness is less well defined, starting with a vague reluctance to go out of doors and an increasing sensitivity to sunlight, followed by a “taste for wayward and compulsive hobbies”, until finally — almost comically, in all but Ballard’s hands — “the victims became convinced they had once been astronauts”. (This detail underlines how so many aspects of these three stories are interchangeable, including the titles. With its false-astronaut memories, Myths could so easily have been called Memories of the Space Age; equally, with a line like “he felt that the entire human race was beginning its embarkation, preparing to repatriate itself to the sun”, it could just as appropriately have been called News from the Sun — and vice versa with the other two stories.)

The protagonist this time is Roger Sheppard, an “outwardly cool architect who concealed what was in fact a powerful empathy for other people’s psychological ills”. He has come to an overgrown and abandoned Cape Kennedy to find out if his ex-wife, a sufferer of the space-sickness, is dead. This time, though, it’s Sheppard who does the buzzing with a low-flying aircraft, and his victim is a young neurosurgeon, Philip Martinsen, who was/is caring for Sheppard’s ex-wife.

Paladin PB, art by Chris Moore

Summing up the similarities between these three stories — even worse, listing all the resonances they set up with Ballard’s previous fiction — would be the work of a not insubstantial thesis. For me, the standouts, as already mentioned, are The Atrocity Exhibition and The Crystal World, whose crystal-forming time-dilation effect these three stories seem to be moving towards, particularly the third, Myths, where Cape Kennedy, rather than being a desert as in the first two stories, is overgrown with lush forest, and Ballard’s descriptions of various light effects approach the hallucinogenic vibrancy of that earlier novel’s prose. (And produce similar images. For instance, in Myths we have: “a large alligator basked contentedly in a glow of self-generated light, smiling to itself as its golden jaws nuzzled its past and future selves.” While in The Crystal World, there’s: “Invested by the glittering light that poured from its body, the crocodile resembled a fabulous armorial beast. Its blind eyes had been transformed into immense crystalline rubies…”)

(As another aside, I did find myself wondering, having since finally read Ballard’s keystone work Empire of the Sun, how much his more visionary and hallucinogenic passages evoke young Jim’s hunger- and fever-driven fugues as he wanders war-torn Shanghai, rather than LSD, as everyone assumed when The Crystal World came out. Certainly, these three stories are full of the sort of Ballardian imagery that would come together in Empire — drained swimming pools, abandoned motels, low-flying aircraft, not to mention the frequently emaciated and hallucinating protagonists. A particularly resonant quote, from Memories: “Cape Kennedy was even more sinister than he had expected, like some ancient death camp.”)

1984 Paladin PB, art by James Marsh

The most significant Ballardian trope in these three stories, for me, is the presence in each of what I might call a Vaughan-like character (to use the name of the instigator of Crash’s car-crash re-enactments). Here, he’s an ex-aviator or ex-astronaut, driven to create his own conceptual version of the space-programme, often trying to enlist the protagonist in some way as a means of saving him from the space-sickness while, all too frequently, also attempting to kill him. (Again, echoes of Empire of the Sun, in young Jim’s uneasy relationship with the American Basie, who takes the boy under his wing, but is just as ready to hand him over to the occupying forces or leave him to die, at a moment’s notice. Ballard is an authentic creator of rogues in the literary tradition of Long John Silver.) This Vaughan-like character always has some unspecified link to the protagonist’s wife, or she’s in some way drawn to him. It might be a former affair, or it might be pure fascination. Either way, the wife abandons the protagonist for this rival: the muse belongs to the artist, however crack-brained he is.

Reading these three so similar tales together, I got the feeling Ballard was fine-tuning his imaginative engine, delicately adjusting the weighting of each of his stock characters, images, and situations, finding the balance point that would allow the whole thing, as it were, to fly.

Arkham House HB

And something does seem to have clicked. News from the Sun and Memories of the Space Age both spend more time establishing the space-sickness as a real-feeling (even if magical-realist) phenomenon, and end with their protagonist sinking into a final fugue, with the stated hope that this would lead, in some way, to a new sense of inner fulfilment. (Though, to me, it always sounded far more like a euphemism for death.) But in the third story, Myths of the Near Future, it feels we’re dealing with a more developed form of this mutating narrative. For a start, Ballard seems impatient to get the establishment of the space-sickness over with, and is less interested in making it seem like a real thing (however weird), than just having it there, in place, ready for the next stage of this particular myth to play out. Significantly, he shifts the balance between his protagonist and the Vaughan-like rival. Now it’s the protagonist, Sheppard, who’s doing the menacing low-flying, while the rival figure is no longer an elder or peer, but a young neurosurgeon. It’s like we’re now seeing the same story from another perspective — a madder, but also perhaps more vital and artistic one. Whereas the first two stories move towards the protagonist’s loss of his wife both to the space-sickness and to the Vaughan-like character, Myths starts with the protagonist already having lost his wife — both to divorce and the space sickness — and setting out to recover her.

Myths ends with a far more genuine sense of fulfilment, however otherworldly it must be when combined with the ongoing symptoms of the space-sickness. By the end, the four main Ballardian archetypes that populate this loose trilogy fall into a sort of unity, as though about to adopt a peculiar four-way marriage: the now Vaughan-like protagonist, the young neurosurgeon, the protagonist’s no-longer-dead wife, and the young woman psychologist Anne Godwin (whose role was played by the astronauts’ daughters Ursula in News and the “Nightingale” from Memories). What’s more, Myths’ landscape isn’t the arid desert of the earlier two tales, but a place of lush, often glowing forest — “a world nourished by time”, as Ballard has it.

Of course, the fulfilment is of a distinctly Ballardian type, filled with strange light and a new relationship with time, but at least it doesn’t, this third time, feel so much like a hand-waving euphemism for death.

1982 Jonathan Cape PB, art by Bill Botten

What’s going on here? What space-sickness is Ballard himself afflicted by? It’s tempting to take his own advice from Myths of the Near Future: “It was always best to take the mad on their own terms.” In the same tale, regarding his suitcase containing a Terminal Documents-like collection of oddly-assorted objects (“film strips, chronograms and pornographic photos, the Magritte reproduction”), Sheppard says: “I’m trying to construct a metaphor to bring my wife back to life.” Which has a raw biographical resonance in the confrontation with Ballard’s own wife’s death that lay behind so much of The Atrocity Exhibition. Though, it can be hard to tell, with Ballard. Grief and loss aren’t emotions that ever seem to be foregrounded in his fiction — perhaps, however, that’s because they’re so much part of his world at an almost molecular level, they can’t be felt as something separable. Myths, or either of the other two stories, could be read as a post-grief phantasmagoria from start to finish.

Art by Tom Breuer

Another thing these stories address is Ballard’s feelings about the Space Programme. The space-sickness is at first presented as a punishment for daring to fly so high: “By leaving his planet and setting off into outer space man had committed an evolutionary crime.” — which, to me, recalls C S Lewis’s idea in his Space Trilogy that man shouldn’t leave Earth because his Creator said so, something I can’t imagine the futurophilic (and atheistic) Ballard would chime with. Another take on the cause for the space sickness, from Memories, is that “by travelling into space… [mankind] was tampering with the elements of his own consciousness.” So, is Ballard saying we just don’t have the psychological resources to deal with the vast void of the heavens, and the disappointing barrenness of its heavenly bodies?

In Myths, though, there’s a slightly more positive idea: it isn’t that we’re not meant to go into space, rather that it needs to be appreciated for the immense leap it is, analogous to the moment our fish-like ancestors crawled out of the sea onto the land, and not simply a moment of media spectacle:

“Could it be that travelling into outer space, even thinking about and watching it on television, was a forced evolutionary step with unforeseen consequences, the eating of a very special kind of forbidden fruit?”

(To which I just have to add this far more eloquent image of our psychological and technological poverty when it comes to facing up to the challenge of entering the void, in News from the Sun: “the rusting dish of a radio-telescope on a nearby peak, a poor man’s begging bowl held up to the banquet of the universe.”)

In a 1979 interview (in fact, a chat with his friend, the psychologist and computer scientist Dr Chris Evans), Ballard had this to say:

“…we’re at the climactic end of one huge age of technology which began with the Industrial Revolution and which lasted for about two hundred years. We’re also at the beginning of a second, possibly even greater revolution, brought about by advances in computers and by the development of information-processing devices of incredible sophistication. It will be the era of artificial brains as opposed to artificial muscles… Now it’s my belief that people, unconsciously perhaps, recognise… that the space programme and the conflict between NASA and the Soviet space effort belonged to the first of these systems of technological exploration, and was therefore tied to the past instead of the future. Don’t misunderstand me — it was a magnificent achievement to put man on the moon, but it was essentially nuts-and-bolts technology…”

I can’t help feeling that these three longish stories somehow resolved — or began to — the fragmented trauma captured in The Atrocity Exhibition over a decade before, and by doing so, perhaps, opened the way for Ballard to more clearly address the true root of it all, his formative childhood experiences in wartime Shanghai that in so many ways provide the skeleton key for understanding where the many obsessive images in his fiction come from. Despite being utterly magical-realist and surreal in imagery, these three stories are some of the purest pre-echoes of the world presented in Ballard’s most-read novel; and they could be seen as a summing up, and tying together, of so many Ballardian obsessions before he moved on to addressing a deeper, perhaps purer, version of the same thing in Empire of the Sun.


Concrete Island by J G Ballard

1992 PB, art by Chris Moore

After the literary “incident” (to use the terminology of motorway signage) of Crash in 1973, 1974’s Concrete Island, in its slightness, can come across as something of a leftover, a using up of spare energies — the literary equivalent of a hubcap still trundling along the tarmac in the wake of a major collision. It’s the second volume in what has been called Ballard’s “urban disaster triptych” — the others being Crash and High-Rise (1975) — but aside from the fact it starts with a car crash and takes places in a concrete-bounded patch of wasteland, as a novel it doesn’t really share those two longer books’ future-shock levels of deadpan, maxed-out satire. Concrete Island isn’t, in the end, about the modern world, but, as with Ballard’s early, landscape-based fantasies (The Drowned World, The Crystal World), it’s about a retreat into the inner landscape of its protagonist.

The story begins with 35-year-old architect Robert Maitland emerging from a feeder tunnel adjoining the Westway/M4 [correction: A40(M), see comments] interchange when a tyre blowout throws him off the road into a triangle of long-grassed wasteland bordered on two sides by steep motorway embankments, and on the third by an impenetrable chainlink fence. Recovering from the accident, he finds his leg injured, perhaps broken, and when he struggles up the loose soil of the embankment to try to flag down a passing car, soon realises nobody’s going to stop — they’re all going too fast — and almost gets himself run over for his troubles. Retreating, exhausted and injured, he returns to the “island”, as he terms it, and starts working out how to get help, as well as how to survive on his limited resources in the meantime.

US HB, 1974, art by Paul Bacon

After a period of hunger and fever, punctuated by the constant frustration of his every attempt to signal for help, he begins to explore the island and finds it anything but barren. Beneath its long grass it’s “a labyrinth of depths and hollows”, containing the vestiges of some Edwardian terraced houses, a World War II air-raid shelter, the basement of a ruined post-war cinema, and an abandoned printer’s shop. Far from empty, the island — “this immense green creature eager to protect and guide him” — is almost alive. What’s more, he’s not its only inhabitant.

Despite its harking back to those earlier inner-landscape novels, to me there’s also a feel of hints, in Concrete Island, of new directions in Ballard’s writing. Jane Sheppard, one of the two people Maitland finds living in what he’d assumed to be a wasteland, is different from the usually cool, mature and glamorous fifties-Hollywood-style femmes fatale Ballard presents us with as the female lead/object of obsession in his fiction. Rather, she’s young, spiky, and dresses like a “cheap tart”; she swears and smokes pot. About the only thing she shares with Ballard’s usual female characters is that’s she’s clearly damaged, but unlike the overly-cool, deeply traumatised Giocondas he usually produces, Jane makes no attempt to hide it. Writing in 1980, David Pringle said this character was “the nearest thing to a ‘well-rounded’ female character in all [Ballard’s] novels”.

Another hint of something new comes when, at one point, Jane breaks into a stream-of-consciousness rant — but it turns out (from an interview reprinted in Extreme Metaphors) these passages were the result of Ballard transcribing a recording he’d made of a real-life angry outburst from his girlfriend. Nevertheless, these passages come across as a rare moment of stylistic wildness in Ballard’s usually very controlled prose, an opening up to something new.

1974 HB, art by Bill Botton

The other character on the island is Proctor, a clumsy, wounded ex-acrobat with the intellect of a child. Proctor, and the way Maitland takes command of him, makes it easy to suggest some parallels for Ballard’s novel: Robinson Crusoe (with Proctor as Man Friday), or The Tempest (Proctor as Caliban). In which case, is Jane, with her ability to leave the island, Ariel? (At one point I found myself wondering if Jane’s name didn’t suggest Maitland as a sort of Tarzan of the urban jungle, with Proctor as the chimp Cheetah.) And there’s the inevitable feeling, as with High-Rise, that this might devolve into a sort of inner-city Lord of the Flies, with Maitland hoping to be rescued while trying to fend off the breakdown of even this little, three-person social structure, before it murders him.

But Maitland, it turns out, was already living on a sort of island. He’d carefully arranged his life to keep a certain distance between himself and everyone else. He won’t be missed after his accident because his wife (the “cool, formal house with its large white rooms” he shares with her gives a good idea of the temperature of that relationship) will assume he’s with his mistress, and his mistress will assume he’s with his wife; meanwhile, his son will make his own way home when he’s not picked up from school, and his office is too used to his not turning up for days at a time to be concerned.

1976 Panther PB, art by Richard Clifton-Dey

The roots of this isolation are deep. The concrete island begins to remind Maitland of the main image he has of his childhood, of him playing alone in a high-walled garden. Are, then, Jane and Proctor some warped evocation of his divorced parents? Is Proctor an image of himself as an un-grown-up child in an adult body, socially awkward and clumsy? Is Jane some confused mix of all the women in Maitland’s life, the caring then suddenly distant mother, the coolly transactional lover, and the vulnerable, damaged little girl?

There’s definitely a feeling that what’s going on here is not some moral fable about the disconnection of modern life, but a psychodrama with its roots in childhood. (John Baxter, in his biography of Ballard, calls this book “the most overtly self-analytical of his novels”, but to me it doesn’t really come across as especially personal to Ballard — though perhaps that’s just in retrospect, with the Empire of the Sun a couple of novels away.)

Maitland, it seems, was only too eager to find himself marooned on this concrete island, and once he is, his real work is not to be rescued, but to let these nagging figures that the accident has shaken free from his brain — whatever they represent — run through their dramas until, played out, they leave him genuinely alone at last. Concrete Island, then, is about a man in search of a moment of inner peace — even if it takes a car crash, fever, and near starvation to achieve it.

1985 PB, art again by Chris Moore

The book has an interesting writing history. After its first draft, Ballard wrote a screenplay (now housed in the British Library) adapting what he’d written. He then went back to the novel and revised it extensively into its final, published form. The screenplay went unfilmed, but seems to have acted as a way of getting perspective on the novel prior to honing it into its final shape.

It remains something of a minor Ballard novel, lacking the iconic feeling of those books that grapple with the sort of archetypal (modern or timeless) landscapes found in The Drowned World, The Crystal World, Crash and High-Rise. But the book’s touching on childhood, in combination with its protagonist’s extended periods of hunger and fever, point towards it being another step closer to his autobiographical novel Empire of the Sun. After all, once the post-collision hubcap stops rolling and comes to halt, its bright chromium surface provides a perfect little mirror for what Ballard is doing here: a moment of self-reflection after some traumatic event.


Terminal Boredom by Izumi Suzuki

Cover by Araki

Izumi Suzuki was part of what sounds like Japan’s post-60s New Wave of Science Fiction, in which (as in the UK at the same time) the country’s authors made a conscious attempt to move away from the commercial American style. Hers in particular became known as the “SF of manners”, though I’ve a feeling that phrase loses a lot through translation.

Born in 1949 (making her a contemporary of Haruki Murakami, whose world of jazz cafés and disaffected twenty-somethings she shares), she moved to Tokyo after winning recognition for some of her early writing, and there became a stage and film actor, as well as posing for the art-and-bondage photographer Araki. (That’s her, by him, on the cover of Terminal Boredom.) She was apparently introduced to SF in 1970, and began publishing it starting with “Trial Witch” in S-F Magazine in 1975. Her writing career seems to have gone into overdrive after the death of her ex-husband, the experimental jazz saxophonist Kaoru Abe, with whom she had a daughter. (A 1992 novel and 1995 film, Endless Waltz, depicted a fictionalised version of the couple’s stormy relationship.) Her health declined, though, and she eventually took her own life in 1986.

Scenes from Endless Waltz (1995) – much honking of free jazz, but little about Suzuki’s writing

Terminal Boredom, published this year by Verso Books, is her first English-language collection, with seven stories by almost as many translators (Daniel Joseph, David Boyd, Sam Bett, Helen O’Horan, Aiko Masubuchi, and Polly Barton). There’s no indication of when the Japanese originals first appeared, which is a pity, as I like to at least guess at a writer’s development from knowing which are the earlier stories, but perhaps seven stories is too small a selection for that, anyway.

The opening story, “Women and Women”, is set in a future where “Women have been left carefully husbanding the scant resources of a planet stripped bare by men.” The few remaining males — essential for purposes of reproduction — are housed in an area known as the GETO, the Gender Exclusion Terminal Occupancy Zone. Suzuki gets round the traditional SF exposition problem by having her narrator, a teenager in this mostly-manless world, share the sort of wildly speculative myths about adulthood teenagers in any age do. To her, “Men are an offshoot of humanity… but they’re a deviant strain. They’re freaks…”

“Which is exactly why the males have to be kept in the GETO. If they were allowed to roam free, the radiation or whatever it is they emit would make all the women around them pregnant.”

But when she sees what she just knows to be an actual boy, of her own age, passing her home one night, she’s fascinated, and starts leaving messages for him to find.

Suzuki, from the cover of a Japanese collection

Male-female relations — always of a distinctly ambivalent kind, making me think of a less intense version of that from Angela Carter’s Heroes and Villains — form the core of the book’s preoccupations, but it soon becomes clear the emotional disconnection that characterises these relationships extends to those between women, too. For instance, in “You May Dream”, the narrator too-casually agrees to the request of a friend, whom she spends most of the time feeling vaguely irritated by, to enter her dreams. This is a future where over-population has resulted in lottery-chosen people being suspended in cryosleep until enough spaceships can be built to take them off-world. Sleepers can bond with one chosen person and take up residence in their dreams. The narrator thinks of her friend as her opposite, even her Jungian shadow, which might make her sound like ideal dream material, but it turns out they’re totally incompatible: “She infused a syrupy wetness into my world.” The narrator soon finds herself reluctant to sleep, because of the burden of her friend’s too-different personality.

Perhaps the best story for capturing Suzuki’s tone is the last one, “Terminal Boredom”, set in a future where mass unemployment has resulted in a habitually bored young populace too unmotivated to remember to even feed themselves regularly. “Everyone,” the narrator says, “lives in a happy-go-lucky depression”, more (but only slightly more) engaged in what they see on TV than in reality:

“Ever since I’ve been old enough to really understand the world (these past two years or so), I’ve never once cried at a scene in real life. Whenever something serious happens, I just convince myself it’s no big deal… I’ve been fooling myself this way for long enough that it’s become a habit, and now nothing affects me.”

When a woman is murdered right next to her and the boyfriend she mostly can’t be bothered to meet, they can’t quite grasp what has happened, until they see it again, on camera. It starts to feel like the sort of world J G Ballard was always predicting — a future of boredom through enforced leisure relieved by explosions of violence — only, it doesn’t have the levels of wealth he assumed would go with it.

Suzuki’s is a world that seems particularly post-counter-cultural. The book flap describes her stories as “punky and pitch-black”, but the punkiness is most definitely of the “pretty vacant” rather than pogo-dancing variety. Characters don’t have friends so much as people they habitually hang out with, and get vaguely irritated by, though not enough to make them seek out other people:

“What are your relationships usually like?”
“Totally throwaway. I anticipate the break-up and hint towards it to prepare for a smooth exit.”

Japanese cover to her 1978 collection, Women and Women

Some of Suzuki’s characters (if not all of them, at some level) are just as dissociated from themselves. In “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”, one of the narrators is a woman prematurely aged by a drug she overused, who approaches the still-young man she once had a relationship with, only to find he doesn’t recognise her, or at most thinks she might be his ex-girlfriend’s mother. In “That Old Seaside Club”, the narrator says she’s 19, but is haunted by a failed adult life she surely has not yet lived. “Night Picnic” is about a family who think of themselves as the last surviving human beings on a distant, non-Earth planet, desperately trying to cling to supposedly authentic human ways my mimicking what they see in old movies and read in old books. (As all the cultural references in this story were American, I wondered if this might have been a satire on US culture taking over Japan’s.) In “Forgotten”, the key difference the narrator’s alien boyfriend notes between humans and his own kind is that humans forget while Meelians don’t, which is why “we haven’t had a war on my planet for two millennia”. “Whose life is this? It’s completely empty,” says one narrator, of her own life, and it’s a quote that could fit any of her stories.

I’d like to read some more stories by Suzuki, though perhaps I wouldn’t read them back-to-back, as that malaise of disaffection can be hard to read too much of. A biographical introduction would be nice, too.

(Another story, “The Walker”, translated by Daniel Joseph, is available at Granta, though it’s quite different in feel from all the stories in Terminal Boredom.)

Suzuki’s 1978 collection, Teatime Anytime, in the only scene from Endless Waltz that shows her books