For those who seek the gold of time.

By Becky Feldman

kawamata_death coverDeath Sentences was written by famed Japanese science fiction writer, Kawamata Chiaki, in 1984 and was translated in 2012 by Thomas Lamarre and Kazuko Y. Behrens. The story is a narrative that spans hundreds of years and even planets as it details the people literally haunted, and who later die, as a possible result of reading a surrealist poem entitled “The Gold of Time” written by a young poet known as Who May.

Chiaki clearly has a love for the French Surrealist era. After all, in the beginning of his novel, some of the characters include Andre Breton, Marcel Duchamp, and Antonin Artaud. As the story begins, we follow Breton’s journey as he meets and becomes enamored with Who May. Upon reading Who May’s works, Breton has what can only be described as an out-of-body experience that haunts him for years to come and supposedly ends his life.  In fact, one of Who May’s lines, (i.e. a “death sentence” I suppose) is actually on Breton’s epitaph, “Je cherche l’or du temps.” (“I seek the gold of time.”)

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