Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Kino's Journey II: Chapter 7


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<<Chapter 6

Chapter 7: The Country of Books
-Nothing is Written!-

“A resident card? Er…I’m not a resident.”
“Hm? Ah, I see! You’re the traveler. The one who arrived this morning by motorrad.”
“That’s right.”
“You didn’t bring any books with you, I see…”
“Pardon me?”
“N-nothing. Just talking to myself. …So, you would like to borrow this book?”
“Yes. May I?”
“Hm. Your name?”
“And where are you currently staying?”
“The hotel on the corner over there. What was it called again… I’m sorry, I can’t seem to remember. It’s the one with the blue roof.
“Ah, that’s not a problem. I know which one you’re talking about. When will you be departing our country?”
“In two days. I’ll return the book tomorrow.”
“Excellent. Let’s make you a library card—write your name and sign here. You can keep the Address and Social Insurance Number sections blank.”
“Right. …Here you are.”
“Thank you. One moment, please.”
“Thank you.”
“By the way, Kino. How do you like this country? Tell me what you think of it, if that’s all right with you.”
“It was surprising to see so many books.”
“Remarkable, isn’t it? Reading is our national pastime. People only stop reading to sleep at night. I don’t know what other countries are like, but I am quite convinced that none can match ours in the number of libraries and bookstores.”
“You might be right. At least, I’ve never seen such magnificent libraries in any of the lands I’ve visited thus far.”
“Then I ask that you try your hand at the art of reading during your visit, Kino. There’s nothing quite as enriching. …Here you are. The library opens at 5 in the morning and closes at midnight. We have a returns box in front of the entrance if the library is closed for the night.”
“I see. Thank you.”

“Hermes, are you awake?”
“Sending a telegram…? I understand…”
“Hermes, are you talking in your sleep?”
“Huh? What? Oh. It’s you, Kino.”
“Let’s get back to the hotel. It’s going to get dark soon.”
“Finally. …Hey, what’s that heavy thing you just loaded? Did you buy explosives?”
“I borrowed a book.”
“Something to read at the hotel before I go to bed.”
“More reading? You spent the whole day at the library, Kino.”
“It might be nice for once, you know. I think I might go back to the library tomorrow.”
“Do you want to come too? Although I can’t see you climbing the ladders to get to the higher shelves, Hermes.”
“Motorrads can’t fly, and we don’t read books. I’m not jealous at all, Kino. Hmph.”

“Good morning, Kino. I’m kind of surprised. You wake up at the same time every day like clockwork.”
“Good morning, Hermes. I’m kind of surprised you woke up at the same time as me today.”
“Nah, I just slept so much during the day yesterday that I wound up staying up all night. I don’t mind, since it looks like I’ll have the whole day to catch up on sleep.”
“I see. …Say, Hermes? Did I talk in my sleep at all? I had a strange dream.”
“That’s unusual, Kino. Tell me what it was about before you forget about it. And no, you didn’t talk in your sleep.”
“Okay. …I was wandering this pitch-black but bright space with no sense of direction and no idea how to get anywhere. I didn’t know anything about the past or future, either. And for some reason, a white wolf was chasing me. Apparently someone who looked a lot like me had stolen something valuable. There was this red-eyed witch who was always with me, and she would heal my injuries and sometimes sing me the most pleasant lullabies.”
“The witch and I would drink tea at cafe patios or take quiet walks through the snow. That was when a child appeared and spouted gibberish. The witch hit the child, and the child died. The next day, the witch’s head disappeared. I was sad. Then the white wolf transformed into a beautiful woman. She told me to follow her, so I ended up doing exactly that.”
“…Kino, what kind of book were you reading last night?”

“How was it, Traveler?”
“How was what?”
“The book you just returned. You finished it, right?”
“Oh, yes. …I enjoyed it.”
“What else?”
“What else?”
“Well, you know. How beautiful the sentences were, or how well the characters’ thoughts were conveyed. How would you approach the book from a critical standpoint? I’m sure your standards are different from those of us locals.”
“Er…it’s hard to say on the spot.”
“I see. Personally, I gave this one a 69 out of 100.”
“The protagonist was very well-written, but I took off some points because the supporting characters didn’t have much of an impact.”
“I see…”
“This author writes the most impeccable action scenes. If the protagonist kicks his enemy, for instance, you can practically hear his leg cutting the air. That’s one of the big draws here. But descriptions of nature, on the other hand, could use some work. The first half of the book uses the expression ‘blue skies and flowing clouds’ 13 times, word-for-word. It’s very distracting.”
“—Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear. You have no idea what you’re talking about. That’s one of the author’s charms. He doesn’t need to waste time thinking of useless descriptions of nature. You don’t understand the appeal of his prose, I see.”
“Oh, really? Then how did you rate this book?”
“Ninety-two out of 100! One of the author’s best works, I say.”
“And I presume you have a good reason for making that declaration?”
“Er, excuse me…”
“Indeed I do! Even you must understand the masterful tension he builds in his prose, but that’s not all. The author makes an art of depicting the pathos of the characters as they fight for survival.”
“Ah, so that’s where your focus was.”
“Er… I’ll be leaving now.”
“Of course! You can’t discuss this author without discussing his portrayal of pathos. I dare say that people who entertain themselves with shallow action sequences will never understand its true beauty. You do have a point about his descriptions of nature. That is indeed a weakness of his. But would flowery descriptions of nature have served him well in works like ‘Let’s Meet at Roult River’?”
“Hm. So you argue that any more exposition would slow the pace of the prose? ‘Roult River’ is quite the heavy choice of work, don’t you agree?”
“Well, if you’ll excuse me…”
“I’m sure you know that the author lost his father and uncle to war when he was still young. He discusses his experiences through the protagonist of ‘Bobby and the Lemon’. ‘Brau Frau Brau’ also discusses what it means to kill in order to survive, through the perspective of the female boxer. The natural world that acts as the stage of the battles is given only the driest of description, while the internal thoughts of humans that experience sadness and grief are portrayed realistically—with utter simplicity, as is his style—”
“In other words, in this particular work—”
“—also known as the ‘Real, Moral, Neutral’ technique pursued by authors who adhere to the so-called Tenderlens school of thought. This thesis—”
“—the series of deaths of the prominent supporting characters—”
“—a way of finding the root of Mother Nature—”
“—I see, so we are in agreement on that point. I admit, you do have a deep understanding of this novel.”
“Please, you flatter me.”
“In any case, Traveler— Hm? Where has she gone?”
“What did you think of ‘Reluta Tenson Rojijikonelsan√©’? Absolutely worth at least an 80 out of 100, no?”
“Eighty-nine, I’d say. The bedroom sequence in Act Two was what stuck out to me most—it’s an homage to ‘The Wheels Only Spin’. The author could not have matured as a writer without that scene. I even speculate that the bedroom scene is the whole reason he wrote the book in the first place. You can see similar tendencies in ‘Package 19’ and one of his early definitive works, ‘Gravity Breaks the Window at 45’.”
“Ah, a connoisseur! You can’t make that connection without a higher understanding of the author’s body of works. Have you read ‘Bolt Up ~The Three-Forked Road of Fate~’?”
“Of course! I gave it an 88. It’s his best short story yet.”
“What of ‘Kellistonellton√®s’? It’s a must-read.”
“Read that one five years ago, along with ‘Lulutonellton√®s’. Have you read ‘So Said the Lamb’?”
“Naturally. ‘Tomohma Ledyatz ~My Love Song~’?”
“The story of a generation. Who hasn’t read that one? What about—”

“I’m so bored…”
“Hm, so this is the luggage rack. And this here is…”
“Hey! Are you a motorrad thief?”
“Whoa! N-no, I’m…er…”
“Hi there.”
“Welcome back, Kino. That was quick.”
“I saw you through the library window.”
“Let me introduce you, Mr. Thief. This here is Kino.”
“Hello. Sorry for scaring you. This is Hermes. And if you were planning on stealing him, I would advise against it. It would put me in a difficult position.”
“N-no, I just wanted to see him from up close. I’m terribly sorry for the misunderstanding.”
“Are you interested in motorrads?”
“No, not particularly. Well, er…I just thought that I might be able to go on a journey if I had a motorrad of my own.”
“A journey?”
“Yes. I’ve always been curious about traveling, you see…”
“That’s certainly possible, if you know how to ride a motorrad.”
“No, I’m afraid I can’t. I don’t even know how to ride a bicycle. I’m terribly sorry. If you’ll excuse me…”
“Wait a second.”
“It’s interesting that you’re interested in traveling. Are you planning to leave this country?”
“Yes. I am.”
“Ah, so do you really hate books a lot, Mr. Thief?”
“Not at all. I love books, and this is the perfect country for reading. I have countless works to choose from.”
“Oh, that’s kind of boring.”
“I agree—it’s great to have such a range of choices. And yet you still want to leave?”
“That’s right. …Kino, do you have some time to spare? Let me tell you my story.”
“Of course. By all means.”

“The truth is, I’ve always dreamed of writing a book of my own. I want everyone to read my work. That’s why I want to leave.”
“But is writing not possible from here?”
“Why not?”
“It’s not surprising that you and Hermes don’t know, but no one in this country tries to write something for themselves. They simply read and consume the books. That’s why we have no publishing houses or printing presses.”
“Then where do the books come from?”
“Specialized merchants calling themselves ‘booksellers’ come to our land a few times a year with books from different countries. Everything we have comes from them. We have never published a single book within our walls.”
“That’s incredible.”
“I…I’ve always loved losing myself in fantasies, ever since I was a child. Creating stories and controlling characters to my heart’s content. I would fantasize before I fell asleep, or in class while the teachers were talking.”
“I can relate.”
“Not me.”
“It was the same when I read. I enjoyed the act of reading for what it was, but that enjoyment sometimes acted as a catalyst for my fantasies. I call it an ‘idea overflow’. Even when I’m reading a book, I can enter another world in my mind—like crossing from one boat to another and rowing it in a different direction. Sometimes, I lose myself so much that I have to stop reading completely.”
“I can relate.”
“Not me.”
“Eventually, fantasizing wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to turn those fantasies—the stories I created—into sentences. Sentences that someone would read for me. I wanted someone to be moved the way I was moved, to find enjoyment the way I found enjoyment.”
“I see.”
“No comment.”
“That desire grew stronger and stronger. I think of myself as a container sometimes, and each time a new book enters me, it makes that container overflow with something else. The more I read the fun books other people have written, the more I want to write. It’s almost like wanting to respond to a fun tale with one of your own. Maybe it’s the conceit of having a better story to tell, or the jealousy of not having known that story before you were told it. Or maybe both.”
“I see.”
“My dream is to publish a book of my own. But no one else in this country shares that dream. I might be the most unusual person in these walls. Other people are perfectly content to read and enjoy and criticize already-published books, but why am I the only one who has the desire to write? One of my friends even asked me what the point of writing a book was.”
“But what else can I do? My heart is crying out. I want to write. That thirst just won’t go away.”
“So that’s why you want to leave, even at the risk of getting hurt.”
“That’s right. I just might get the chance to fulfill my dreams if I leave, don’t you think? Perhaps somewhere out there, I’ll find someone who acknowledges my work or an organization that wants to publish my writings! But the problem is, I don’t even know where to begin with when it comes to traveling. Like I said, I don’t even know how to ride a bicycle.”
“…Here’s my suggestion.”
“Just stay here forever. Then one day you might give up on writing and find contentment in reading for the rest of your life. You’ll tell yourself that this is your fate. At least that way, you won’t end up putting your life in danger.”
“…Of course… You’re right. Just stay here, huh? Lose my hold on the things I’ve created in my head… And someday, I’ll stop fantasizing altogether. I’ll forget how to overflow with ideas.”
“Hah hah! That’s a good idea! I can practically envision that life right now. It’s flashing before my eyes!”
“It’s definitely one way to live.”
“Of course! I can imagine that life. It’s almost like a ready-written book. Like reading a story that’s already been printed and bound.”
“That’s right.”
“I’ve imagined that future, and I know now! That I will refuse that fate! My destiny has not been categorized and shelved just yet! After all, at this moment! I am still a blank page!”
“Thank you for listening to me. I will think over this on my own again.”
“I see. Don’t dwell too much on what I said, though. You’ll end up just thinking without taking any action.”
“Kino’s right. ‘Too much thinking means not enough going’.”
“You mean, ‘too much thinking means not enough doing’?”
“Yeah, that.”

“Good morning, Hermes.”
“Yaaaawn. Good morning, Kino. Hm…? Oh? Are we leaving?”
“But it’s still early.”
“I’ve had breakfast and I’m all packed. We might as well go.”
“No, I mean I thought you’d stay until evening to read some more.”
“I’m all right. Reading is fun, but books don’t tell you everything about a country. This place is really boring, aside from the books.”
“Hm. Anyway, I’m glad we’re leaving. The weather’s great today.”

“That’s all for exit procedures, Traveler. Thank you for visiting. Safe travels.”
“Thank you.”
“Let’s go, Hermes.”

“Hey, there’s someone out there. Look at all the stuff he’s got.”
“That’s the man from yesterday. Let’s stop for a bit.”

“Hello Kino! Hermes!”
“There’s a fork up ahead. Shall we go there together?”
“Of course. What do you say, Hermes? Can I turn off the engine and push you to the fork?”
“Sure thing.”

“I’m surprised that you left the country.”
“So am I, to be honest. I’m glad to see you, even if this is only a coincidence. As you can see, I’ve decided to leave on a journey.”
“I see. What did your friends and family say?”
“My parents were completely against it. They said it was a foolish idea and tried to stop me. So I wrote them a letter saying that I would never entertain foolish ideas again and snuck out in the morning.”
“‘This letter is a work of fiction. It has no relation to any real promises’.”
“Hah hah hah! Yes, that sounds about right. Actually, I found some of my friends reading outside the library on my way out of town earlier. What do you think they said?”
“Tell us.”
“‘Why do you want to leave so badly? Our country is the greatest place in the world. We’ll always be here. Come back when you change your mind—hope we’ll see you again’.”
“I see…”
“So I told them that the next time we met, I wouldn’t hear their voices no matter how close I was. They could say whatever they want and give me as many or as few points as they want, but I wouldn’t be able to respond to them.”
“What’s so funny, Kino?”
“So no one told me to have a great journey. Although I don’t mind too much.”
“How are you going to travel?”
“That’s right. Are you going on foot?”
“I thought it over after we parted ways yesterday. I don’t know how to ride a motorrad or a bicycle, but I realized that there were other ways to take off. I have legs to walk on. And I’ve always been good at skiing. For now I’ll travel on foot—head south and go somewhere I can travel by ski when it snows. It’ll take some time, but that’s the most effective way for me to go. So for the time being, I have no idea what my destination is. I may never find one.”
“I see… The skis are an excellent idea.”
“You have so much stuff with you. What’s in the bag?”
“This long case is for my skis. And this backpack can double as a sled. I’ve got some clothes and portable rations inside, too. But more than anything else, I’ve packed a lot of papers. Half are works I’ve written so far, and the other half are blank.”
“I see.”
“Do you have a persuader?”
“Yes. I snuck out with the lightest one we had at home. Here.”
“Hm. Which one is this, Kino?”
“A Model 2340 with a laser sight. Bullets will be easy to come by anywhere. But make sure to always carry extra rounds, just like with rations. And take it apart to clean every day so you can fire at any time.”
“Right. I’ll keep that in mind.”
“And one more thing. Don’t hesitate to shoot, whether the animal you kill is edible or not. And above all, always prioritize your own safety. Dead men can’t write.”
“Right. …I’ll keep that in mind.”

“The leaves are falling.”
“Yes. It will get colder soon.”

“So this is goodbye. I plan to follow the woods southward.”
“I see. Take care.”
“Thank you, Kino!”
“I have no idea what will happen to me now. But someday, when winter has passed, I will come back to my hometown. To give my old self courage.”
“That’s a good idea.”
“Thank you for everything. I’m so glad I met you. Goodbye.”
“Safe travels.”
“Safe travels.”
“…Kino. Hermes.”
“Wish me luck!”

“—We’ll cross that mountain and head northwest. Then we’ll hit a highway.”
“All right. We have a heading. …By the way, Kino.”
“Do you think he’ll be all right?”
“Probably not.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Let’s say there are 10 people who have made up their minds on something. It’s rare that even one of them gets to achieve what he set out to do. So that man probably won’t be all right.”
“Statistically speaking, I mean.”
“…Kino. That’s what Master told you, word-for-word.”

“You got me. So anyway—”


  1. “It would be nice if you could make a wish come true on your own; especially if it’s something that would take at least ten people to accomplish. That’s why I don’t think things will turn out well.” baka-tsuki?

  2. Felt like a very melancholic chapter to me. Could someone explain why Kino said this passage, I dont get her angle:

    “…Here’s my suggestion.”
    “Just stay here forever. Then one day you might give up on writing and find contentment in reading for the rest of your life. You’ll tell yourself that this is your fate. At least that way, you won’t end up putting your life in danger.”

    1. I think she said it because she didnt beleive he would accomplish what he set out to do, beside that, the advice she gave him was about safety, because as we all know, the most important thing for a traveler is not to die.