Tokyo Doesn't Love Us Anymoreby Ray Loriga, John King (Translator)
This is a disturbing and exhilarating novel in which the anonymous protagonist, a dealer offering a range of the latest chemicals designed to make consumers forget everything, finds his past and present, along with his own identity, disintegrate under the effects of these 'drugs of oblivion'. Set in the very near future, this novel is very much in the style of
This is a disturbing and exhilarating novel in which the anonymous protagonist, a dealer offering a range of the latest chemicals designed to make consumers forget everything, finds his past and present, along with his own identity, disintegrate under the effects of these 'drugs of oblivion'. Set in the very near future, this novel is very much in the style of dystopias like Orwell's 1984, while also evoking the bewildering visual universe of Blade Runner.
The protagonist moves through a world of cynical consumerism, whether in Arizona, South East Asia or Europe, under the constant scrutiny of the Company in whose products he deals. The alienating urban environment that surrounds him intensifies the feeling that he does not belong to any one country or place. His life is spent in transit on deserted motorways or in crowded airports and anonymous hotel rooms, punctuated by business contacts with similarly nameless customers and random, meaningless sexual encounters. There is no place for guilt or personal responsibility in a society in which one's acts are easily forgotten thanks to drugs designed to erase all memories from the mind.
The protagonist speaks with a disarming humor born of his detachment from life, personal relationships and the very consequences of his actions. What makes this vision so alarming is the fact that both its observations and its conclusions are entirely believable.
The New York Times
- Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
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- 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.72(d)
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TOKYO DOESN'T LOVE US ANYMORE
By RAY LORIGA
GROVE PRESSCopyright © 2003 Ray Loriga
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIN THE MIDDLE OF THE DESERT
It wasn't snowing.
It really was snowing but it was pretend snow. Astrud Gilberto was singing in front of a Christmas tree and that's why there was pretend snow. And then the song finished.
Ever since the newspapers started saying that the world is going to end, songs have seemed shorter and the days longer. I called in at your house but they told me that you weren't there, they told me that you were somewhere else, in Tokyo.
She left years ago. That's what they told me. I wouldn't be surprised if it were true.
I watched The Girl from Ipanema on the classic movie channel. Astrud Gilberto was singing almost without moving, the artificial snow, the daiquiris, the band, the young ladies lined up next to the small stage.
Last week, at the fair, they sold two old cars. We were in Phoenix, Arizona and your mother wrote something on the window, on the windowpane and then rubbed it out before we could read it.
What do you think they're all doing now that you're not there? They share out your things amongst them, they mimic your gestures, they strip your bed.
In the hotel room there were plastic flowers, two hundred TV channels, green carpet covered with fish and all sorts of crazy designs. I was tired and my eyes were closing, and so I slept for three or four hours and then I woke up, opened the curtains and watched the planes until dawn.
I bumped into your mother in Phoenix and she said we should take you flowers and I said no, we shouldn't. Then I went up to my hotel room. I had a bath. I slept for a while and afterwards I stayed there watching the planes.
Your mother only gambles on roulette and she swears that she wins, she swears that she wins more than she bets and she looks good for a woman who has tried her luck in five different continents and who now only gambles in Phoenix, Arizona, and writes things on windows with her finger and then rubs them out with her fist. A fine woman, your mother, and good-looking, nice tits as well, a real laugh, lively. She places her bets and wins, great, isn't it?
Let's get back to sleep darling and look at the planes.
No need for flowers.
I went downstairs for the newspaper at ten in the morning but then I stayed in the bar drinking a non-alcoholic beer, a man asked after you and I told him that you were dead, that you had died, it's not true of course, but you've got to say something. Died in an accident. A car accident? No, not a car accident.
There were two identical girls in the swimming pool wearing identical yellow swimming costumes. When one of them dived into the water the other one would get out, so that there was always the same girl in and out of the water at the same time.
At twelve o'clock I lay down on my bed again but I didn't go to sleep. The room was freezing cold.
In Puerto Rico I spent three days in an even worse room, I had to open the windows to let the heat in. This room was not as cold. I also saw your mother in the casino in Puerto Rico and in one of those floating casinos in New Orleans. She didn't see me. That's right, it was in Puerto Rico, New Orleans. The Mississippi is brown. I don't know why but I thought that it would be different. What happened is that the lawyer called me up and told me that if I knew how to find you I should find you and tell you that some documents urgently need your signature. I told him that I didn't know how to find you and that, anyway, you had probably died in an accident and this last bit alarmed the lawyer and he asked, 'A car accident?' And I simply said to him, 'No, not a car accident'.
The Mississippi is brown because it drags all that earth along with it, because it's a vigorous and nervous and long and brown river. A good river, all the same. After talking to the lawyer I went down to the bar again and when I passed by the swimming pool there was absolutely no sign of the girls, so I had a daiquiri or a mojito or both and everything began to get better so quickly that I was all for going up for my swimming trunks and celebrating but then, I don't know why, I didn't do it and carried on drinking until three or four, until someone suggested that we should go to visit the Indian reservations, well, it seemed a good idea to me because I can't drive, which in a certain respect is almost a sin in this country, but I know that there's a lot to see in Arizona. So in next to no time the four of us were on the road, a chubby little Apache and his girlfriend, a chubby little Apache girl and me.
Welcome to Kayenta. Thanks a lot. Are you a foreigner? Yes, I'm one hundred per cent foreign. At least when I'm here. Are you single? Widowed.
Time for lunch. There we are, having lunch and this big dark-haired man with sideburns and braces shows up and tells me that he's Spanish and I tell him that's great and he tells me that he's descended from the family of the Cid, wow, I'm amazed, I'm really amazed and the man almost goes wild and I tell him that Fin genuinely surprised but that I don't doubt him and he tells me that there's no reason why I should doubt him and then his girlfriend, who's an Indian, gets out some corn tortillas and enchiladas, with chicken, marinated meat and guacamole. And my Apache friends, who don't know who the Cid is, wolf it all down in a second and then ask for more, and beer and then tequila and then more beer and so on until the big guy brings us the bill and I pay it all.
We go back to the car and take a drive around the town, which is a tiny town with prefabricated houses and a mall and one of those American canteens just like the ones we saw in the east before the fall of communism and which are probably called Macdonalds here.
Poverty is multi-coloured in America, like the International Pancake Shop.
We carry on bound for Fort Apache and we cross some breathtaking mountains and a breathtaking forest and even a breathtaking lake, we smoke grass and they ask me about this and that and I do the same, I mean that I ask them things as well and we reach the city, we drive past the casino, I remember your mother and I think that it would be great to meet her here, in the only Apache casino on earth and then, I don't know why, I'm convinced that she's in there and I decide that we're not going to stop. People are looking at us. The fact is that some people look at us and others don't, but I said that to cut it short and to make it clear that some of them do look at us.
The house is a bit better than the houses in Kayenta but a dump nevertheless and the boy explains to me that the dump's a present from Social Security and I tell him that that makes it a marvellous dump and I mean it.
My Apache friends have got the biggest TV set in the world and a poster of Geronimo pinned up to the right above it and a picture of Johnny Hallyday to the left. We smoke more grass and drink beer. When the beer runs out she goes to the car and brings another case of it that must have been in the boot of the car and that's warm, but it doesn't matter, and we drink all of that as well. When there's no grass left the boy goes out and I hear him starting up the car and leaving and he comes back a bit later and while he's been out my Apache friend and I have hardly spoken.
She asked me about my wife and I told her that my wife's dead.
She became very sad so I told her that it isn't really true, that it's a joke.
She got angry and told me that it was a disgusting joke and I could only agree with her.
What can have become of that girl in Hong Kong who lived in a shop surrounded by plastic buckets and trays and baskets and washing-up bowls of every imaginable colour?
My friend the Apache doesn't know what I'm talking to him about. We're sitting smoking next to the lake. Two shots ring out. Duck hunters, my friend says. Then another Indian goes by in a boat. He smiles. We smile back.
Night falls and then it's day again. The girl has disappeared and now there's a very large dog and two kids sitting in front of the TV set. My friend says they're his brothers and that he's got another older brother who's in gaol. What's he there for? For going into a liquor store with a shotgun. He's also got a sister who's married to a Navajo. He pulls a face at the word Navajo. Apparently, Apaches and Navajos don't get on too well together. Navajos are lazy, Apaches aren't. It's just as well to know that.
When we get into Phoenix it's five or six in the afternoon.
The girl in Hong Kong, the one in the shop selling plastic trash, used to sit at the window and instead of looking at the colours inside she would look at the ones outside.
Behind the till there was a photo of a girl, even prettier, wearing a green kimono, leaning on a white balustrade on which there was a china vase with red and yellow flowers on it. Clearly, the girl in the photo and the one in the shop, sitting at the window, were the same girl.
This morning I woke up on hearing a shout, on going out into the corridor I saw a little man wearing an alpaca suit, I closed the door and went back to bed. I don't know if the man had anything to do with the shout. Above the TV there's a photo of a naked black woman, exactly the same photo that the chef from The Shining had in his room, the guy who crossed the country in a hellish snowstorm just so Jack Nicholson could stick an axe into his heart the moment he went in through the door.
The fact is this room and the one belonging to that man are almost identical, with walls covered with thin wooden panels and red carpet on the floor.
The TV is switched on, and there appears on it a man just like the one I've just seen in the corridor.
It's all coincidences this morning.
Incidentally, it's not true that women find me boring because yesterday I brought a woman up to my room and she couldn't stop laughing. She was about forty and wasn't pretty but she had a good body, at least with her clothes on, I didn't get to see her without them because we had drunk a lot, especially me. When she left my room she was still laughing and I heard her laughing until she got into the lift.
As a matter of fact I went to sleep with the sound of her laughter and woke up with the shout.
There were loads of people in the swimming pool and I was surprised to see just one of the identical girls.
I didn't have breakfast. I had a non-alcoholic beer and then another one with alcohol.
Yesterday they said on TV that this has been the warmest and at the same time the coldest January of the century.
Sadness has no end, happiness does.
This morning I received a message from the Company, they want me to go back to Brazil. They say that it's necessary.
Necessary has always seemed an overstated word to me.
They say that our man in Rio has disappeared. They say that they need someone there for Carnaval. People always do everything that they shouldn't during Carnaval and afterwards they need the help of chemistry in order to forget it all.
I swore never to go back to Carnaval.
I don't remember exactly how Marcel Camus' film Orpheus ended, the girl electrocuted herself and everything went red. Then Orpheus, dressed more or less like a Roman, went to the hospital and ran up the stairs and the hospital was full of victims of Carnaval. Wasn't it in Sao Paulo Airport that they seized my suitcase and all my merchandise all because of a mistake made by the Company? Yes, that's where it happened. They set the dogs on me with absolutely no proof, the chemical keeps an eye on things and thinks that it knows everything, but the chemical also makes mistakes and now they want me to go back, no way, to Rio. I couldn't give a toss about Carnaval.
So our man in Rio has headed off into what's left of the jungle with his suitcase under his arm. He's taken them for a ride, he's got enough chemical there to keep him going for a year. Then he'll turn up leading a tribe of vindictive natives like that poor wretch who stirred up half of Algeria to revolt just to end up roasted by fundamentalists on the Moroccan border. Now I remember, Orpheus found Eurydice in the morgue and carried her out in his arms singing songs to her. They then let fly with a hail of stones to his head and he fell over a cliff.
Let that be a lesson to you.
At the end the children got the sun to come out by playing their guitars.
Tucson is celebrating the diamond fair, which can't be bad. A traveller in diamonds offered to swap his case for mine and we both laughed a lot about this.
Today is Monday. I'll work the fair until Friday.
The worst thing about fairs are the whores. Whores in the lifts, whores in the corridors, whores everywhere, as well as guys going in and out of motel rooms like gusts of wind. A precious stones saleswoman invited me to have dinner with her, she was French and had a couple living in her room, a big, blond farmer and a fairly attractive Mexican woman, she had them waiting there just like I always leave the TV on. We had dinner, we drank, she bought a huge dose of memory eroder from me, we went up to her room and I ended up with the farmer, it wasn't bad, my hotel is near so at least I showered in my room. When I went past the swimming pool I thought I saw something at the bottom and I suddenly remembered a guy who drowned in the lake on a golf course trying to recover lost balls so as to be able to sell them at a third of their original price.
Of course there was nothing in the pool.
Tucson is full of palm trees and palm trees always put me in a good mood.
I don't know how many diamond dealers there are in the world but they're all here. I closed five more deals. Mostly STM, short term memory eroder. Then I went for a walk and went to bed. Oh yes, I also downed a bottle of champagne.
I couldn't prevent myself from going down to the swimming pool just to make sure that there was nobody at the bottom of it.
An urgent message from the Company. Apparently my sister has killed herself with a shotgun. The strange thing is that I can't recollect having a sister. At home they're wondering if I'll attend the funeral. I'm wondering the same.
On Friday before leaving Tucson I took the test. Negative. Despite this, as usual, I got nervous. I suppose that I'm the kind of person who on seeing the photofit of a murderer on TV always finds an absurd resemblance with himself. The hotel was certainly the height of luxury. The bathroom was pale blue and the bedroom carpet, yellow. Yes indeed, very pretty. I think that I had already been there but there's no way of establishing this.
Excerpted from TOKYO DOESN'T LOVE US ANYMORE by RAY LORIGA Copyright © 2003 by Ray Loriga. Excerpted by permission.
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