Overwriting Myself

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Overwriting Myself
Author: Fuminori Nakamura
Specifications: ISBN  978-4163904719
166 pages
13.8 x 19.5 cm / 5.5 x 7.8 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Bungeishunju Ltd.
Tokyo, 2016
Buy now: amazon.co.jp


A thriller that cleverly interweaves criminal mischief and a tale of revenge to probe the role that memory plays in supporting a person’s sense of self. The protagonist is Ryōdai Kozuka, who has penned an autobiographical account that begins with the provocative line, “When you read these pages, you may lose everything you have ever known of your life.” How could someone’s personal narrative hold such destructive force? And who is the first-person narrator who dares to read it? These two key questions tug at the reader’s mind as the story unfolds.

Kozuka describes his hapless life beginning with early childhood, when he lived with his biological mother and a stepfather, step-grandmother, and younger half-sister. He repeatedly witnessed his stepfather violently beating his mother and then having sex with her afterwards. When he was in third grade, he took his sister to a secret spot overlooking a cliff, from which she fell and suffered serious injuries. Although the incident was treated as an accident, Kozuka knows he had felt a desire to kill. The incident led his parents to get divorced, after which Kozuka lived alone with his mother. Roughly two years later, he went on a rampage around the house, and his mother sent him to a children’s self-reliance support facility. Kozuka received psychiatric care at the facility, and ultimately became a psychiatrist himself after reaching adulthood.

As the narrative approaches the present, a 32-year-old woman named Yukari comes to see the psychiatrist Kozuka. Her biological father had been a violent amphetamine addict, her foster father had assaulted her sexually, and her alcoholic mother had hanged herself. She had then run away from home, working as a prostitute to survive, and had attempted to kill herself five different times. She suffers from severe depression. Kozuka feels an affinity with her due to their similar backgrounds, and begins intensive treatments aimed at alleviating and erasing her bitter memories. The two become romantically involved and begin living together, but suddenly one day Yukari picks up and leaves. She then becomes romantically involved with Wakui, the owner of the café where she works, and moves in with him. Two men who had been customers of Yukari when she worked as a prostitute, Kijima and Mamiya, visit the café and threaten to post old videos they have of her on the Web if she doesn’t sleep with them for free. Yukari is so shaken by the painful memories this brings back that she follows her mother’s example and hangs herself.

It comes to light that Kijima and Mamiya were sent to Yukari by an older psychiatrist name Yoshimi, who had treated Kozuka when he was in the support facility and had also been Yukari’s therapist until just before she began seeing Kozuka. Having planted a sexual disgust for women in Kozuka when he was young, Yoshimi now takes perverse pleasure in the thought that he can toy with him, thinking he is sending Yukari to a sexually impotent man. But Kozuka sees through his scheme, and begins working with Wakui to avenge Yukari’s death. Using electric convulsive therapy (ECT) together with drug therapy, he exchanges the memories of Kijima and Mamiya to make them both think that they are Kozuka; the treatment fails in Kijima’s case, leaving him permanently disabled, but Mamiya emerges from the treatment believing he is becoming a new man with the identity of Ryōdai Kozuka. The person reading the autobiographical account at the center of the story is none other than this Mamiya of altered memory. But no longer able to determine who he really is, Mamiya hangs himself. Meanwhile, Yoshimi is strangled by a mentally agitated, out-of-control Kijima. Having succeeded in revenge, Kozuka puts himself through ECT with the intent of becoming an all-new person as the narrative comes to a close.