Freud – Toh Enjoe


“Freud” (short story) by Toh Enjoe

English Publication History: Speculative Japan 2 (Kurodahan Press, 2011)

Original: Japanese (Freud, 2007)

Translated by Kevin Steinbach, 2011

Synopsis: An elderly woman dies and her extended family gather at her isolated house to witness its demolition as it’s an onus to them all. When removing the twenty floor mats, they find a lifeless and life-sized Freud under each. They haul and line the Freuds out, discussing what it meant to the old woman and how it affects them. None have a deep understanding of Freud but they all agree that they’re living some sort of dream, but what does this dream mean to the dreamer? 11 pages

Pre-analysis: In Freud’s Die Traumdeutung, later abridge in English as On Dreams, Freud’s main concept is that the subconscious drives imagery in dreams to reflect its wish fulfillment, the unconscious mind distorts the meaning of information so images in dreams aren’t what they appear to be. Within the first page, Freud writes, “[E]very dream will show itself to be a senseful psychological structure which may be introduced into an assignable place in the psychic activity of the waking state.” He also said there are three kinds: (1) direct prophecy, (2), foretelling, (3) and symbolic.

Analysis: The English idiom skeletons in the closet refers to a secret that, if revealed, would be damaging to the secret-holder. While reading “Freud”, I liked to think that Freuds under the tatami mat was the Japanese equivalent phrase. The dreamscape in which the narrator finds herself is in grandmother’s house. She and her family agree that since she knows most about the psychology of Freud, that she must be the dreamer. The responsibility lies on her to save their grandmother by changing the paradigm of the dream—make grandma undead. But as she considers on her responsibility, she also reflects on the interpretation of the dream: Why had her grandmother slipped near the pond? Why are they destroying her house? Why are there Freuds under her tatami mats?

At this point in the story, the reader must analyze the speculative relationship between the woman narrator and her grandmother. She died in the garden because of a shared secret hidden there? There are destroying the house to hide that secret? Are the Freuds the crumbs of truth, lined up for all to see among the family?

The Whale that Sang on the Milky Way Network – Mariko Ohara


“The Whale that Sang on the Milky Way Network ” (short story) by Mariko Ohara

English Publication History: Speculative Japan 2 (Kurodahan Press, 2011)

Original: Japanese (銀河ネットワークで歌を歌ったクジラ), 1984

Translated by Nancy H. Ross, 2011

Synopsis: The backwater planet of Hulftvahl is home to petty grudges, simple puppy love, and limited aspirations. Most of the youth find themselves plants roots on the same planet or flung far abroad with Space Command. Though adventure and exotic ways of life are distant from their everyday lives, The Gardus Show occasionally brings them a tatse of both. Young Joshua and his crush watch Whale on stage; impressed with the sight, they seek friendship with the giant, only to learn about their own urbaneness.

Pre-analysis: I’m a small town boy. I understand small town aspirations, also known as a lack of horizon or well, this is good enough for me. Call it the lack of opportunity or the leash of abidance, the apathy of a small town bent of zero-growth doesn’t exactly inspire the banally jaded townies. Kegs in a cornfield are a source of excitement as are stealing ceramic dwarves, shooting bottle rockets at each other, and discovering new items in the frozen foods aisle. Love here is complacency, finding someone who won’t murder you in your sleep or insist on wearing matching outfits while shopping together. If two things are simple, they are so-called aspirations and so-called love.

Analysis: Joshua and Ligarde are young, naïve and, conforming to all small town clichés, stuck in the rut in which they were born. Both of them see a chance to discover something otherworldly by befriending Whale. The Whale’s extraordinary story and its promise of interstellar travel titillate the couple’s backwater minds. Whale’s lonely existence amid interstellar vacuum pulls the strings of sympathy from their hearts. After they conspire to publicize Whale’s existence on the Milky Network, they find themselves as small town folk on a larger scene, yet still stuck in their small town ways.

Even the most exotic of circumstances and the blessing of the most exotic of characters have difficulty penetrating the mental complacency of the small town mind.

A Gift from the Sea – Naoko Awa


“A Gift from the Sea” (short story) by Naoko Awa

English Publication History: Speculative Japan 2 (Kurodahan Press, 2011)

Original: Japanese (海からの贈り物), 1977

Translated by Sheryl A. Hogg, 2011

Synopsis: Little Kanako receives two fifty-yen coins from her bedridden mother so that she can buy something at the village’s market festival. The paltry sum can buy her very little, but she’s determined to buy one thing for herself and another for her mother. An out-of-place woman sells a bag of “sakura shells” to her, which clatter in her pocket as she walks, yet they also whisper her toward the sea. There at the sea, women gamble with the shells and Kanako learns of her own naivety. 6 pages

Analysis: Kanako’s intentions were pure; she was grateful for the money as she knew they could barely afford the wastefulness. While eyeing the market, only the glittering shells were within the reach of power to spend. With a bagful of beautiful shells, she learns that all that sparkles and clatters isn’t necessarily worthy of its own beauty.  Naivety strikes her upon losing all of her shells in the marble-like gambling near the ocean’s tideline when Kanako returns to the market to buy another bag so that she can win all her shells back. Upon finding the shell vendor absent, another vendor tell her of the thieving “old woman from the sea” who steals children’s money.

Immediately, Kanako is offended with the theft and runs back to the shore. There, without shells in hand or a physical gift for her mother, she confronts her innocent senses of trust, ignorance… and generosity.