An entertaining as well as highly intellectual and philosophical novel in which an intelligent being claiming to be greater than God appears. With a long and distinguished career as a novelist and short-story writer behind him, author Yasutaka Tsutsui has taken the unusual step of personally declaring the work his greatest masterpiece, while also stating that it is most likely his last novel.
Like something out of a David Lynch movie, the story begins with the discovery of a dismembered right arm, probably a woman’s, in a riverbed, followed by the discovery of a dismembered leg in a park nearby. Predictably, a detective arrives on the scene, but the narrative soon veers away from the usual focus on identifying the victim and pursuing the perpetrator.
Near the station is an upscale boulangerie named “Art Bakery.” When the dismembered limbs are found, an art university student name Kurimoto, hired on as a temporary part-timer, begins baking baguettes in the shape of a woman’s right arm, and it creates something of a sensation. Then, after baking a baguette in the shape of a leg, he quits and disappears. At about this same time, art university professor Tateo Yuino, an Art Bakery regular who has sung the praises of the right-arm baguettes in a newspaper column, begins drawing attention for his peculiar behavior. “I know everything,” he boasts, as he guesses personal details about people he has never met before, forecasts what will happen next, and finds lost articles. “A kami has appeared among us,” people say, using the Japanese word long applied to both the myriad divine spirits of Shinto beliefs and the singular Judeo-Christian God. Before long a crowd of nearly 400 has gathered in the park where the professor appears, clamoring for his wisdom, and television stations send their camera crews to report on him. At one point in the midst of the confusion, Yuino snaps his index finger against a man’s forehead and sends him flying, causing him to suffer a brain contusion, and the police take him into custody. Although the snap is ostensibly Yuino’s response to the man’s proposal to set him up as the head of a religious sect in a moneymaking venture, his real purpose is to gain a platform in court.
The judge asks Yuino how he should address him. While conceding that kami might be the word that comes most naturally for describing what he is, Yuino declares that he is in fact a much higher being than anyone imagines kami to be. He then urges the court to address him using the English word “God,” since it has a metalinguistic quality that should cause less discomfort for Japanese speakers than addressing someone in human form as “Kami.” He proceeds to expound on the true nature of the universe—holding forth both there in court and, after his release, on television shows. He has in fact manifested himself in this world in order to solve the mystery of the dismembered limbs, and to mend the rift in space-time that caused them to appear.
The title of the work refers to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s concept of the monad, which is the basis for the pre-established harmony of the universe that the “God” character elaborates on—in essence, the idea that everything that will ever occur has already been determined, and only “God” knows all. Tsutsui has woven Leibniz’s ideas on “best possible worlds” and Hugh Everett’s many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics into a bold and fascinating work of fiction.