Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Accuracy of Death by Isaka Kotaro

Once, a long time ago, a barber told me that he didn't care one bit about hair. "So I'll cut the customer's hair with the scissors probably. Morning 'til night, from when I open the store 'til I close with no break, we know I'm just gonna be snip snip snipping. Having the customer's hair be all neat and trimmed is fine, you know, but, it doesn't mean I particularly like hair."

He died five days later, stabbed in the stomach during a killing spree, but at that time he wasn't expecting to die, of course, so his voice was full and lively.

So when asked, "Then why do you work at a barbershop?", he replied, mingled with a strained laugh, "'Cause it's my job."

This coincides neatly with my thoughts and, if I were to speak somewhat grandiosely, my philosophy.

I have no particular interest in the deaths of humans. If a young president is going to be shot from above, in a parade of private cars going ten miles an hour, if somewhere a boy is going to freeze to death with his beloved dog in front of a Rubens painting, it is of no concern to me.

Speaking of which, the barber in question even revealed to me: "Dying is scary."

To counter this, I asked him, "Do you remember the time before you were born? Before you were born, was it scary? Did it hurt?"


"Death is pretty much like that. It's just a return to the state before you were born. Not scary, not painful."

The deaths of humans have neither interest nor value to me. Or, conversely, everyone's death ends up having the same value. So for me, it has nothing to do with who will die when. Even so, I will go out this very day in order to confirm these deaths.

Why? Because it's my job. Just like the barber said.


This is the opening to Koutaro Isaka's episodic novel The Accuracy of Death, 死神の制度 (shinigami no seido). Koutaro Isaka (伊坂幸太郎)is one of the big contemporary authors right now. Go to any bookstore in Japan and he's got tons of paperbacks on display.

I heard about this book from the Japanese Book News magazine, put out by the Japan Foundation. It's a great way to read about notable books and book news, but it only comes out quarterly. Still, a useful way to wade through contemporary fiction and non-fiction releases.

I'll be honest, I haven't gotten much further than this bit that I've translated (a bit further, but not enough to really say if the book as a whole is any good), but its so sad to see my blog so empty. So I was looking through my computer bits and bobbles and saw a rough translation of this little bit and decided to clean it up and post it. Intriguing, yes? I think this is the kind of book that would do well in the States. This gothic-lite stuff is where the money's at. (Better if it were zombies or vampires, but...)

Like I said, Isaka is pretty hot right now, and famous enough (or maybe this is a chicken and egg situation) that he's had a lot of movies and TV dramas based around his stuff, including "The Accuracy of Death". In fact, here's the trailer (looks like it's actually called "Sweet Rain: The Accuracy of Death":


  1. Nice to see another post! It does sound interesting. Actually, just because it's related to shinigami, it reminds me of one of the stories we're critiquing next week.

    And thanks for the mention of Book News; I'm going to have to look through it.

  2. Mannn, I wish this book was translated! I found this page searching for a translation, but it doesn't look like it's been put into English, yet. T^T Reading your little translated bit just makes me want to read it MORE! Rawwwwwrrrwrrwrr