Out: Unleashed Monsters

CaptureI read Natsuo Kirino’s Out for Dolce Bellezza’s Japanese Literature Challenge and Bibliobio’s Women in Translation month.

I finished reading Out last night and I still can’t remove quite a few graphic images from my head. I am also wrestling with some questions for which I can’t find answers. I hope you will help me understand the book more. (This blog might contain spoilers because I would like to discuss a couple of loose ends which are haunting me.)

Everything is going wrong in the lives of Masako, Yayoi, Yoshi, and Kuniko. Everything. They all do night shifts, making boxed lunches. The factory sounds like a place that can make a sane person insane. Quite a gruelling job and an unfriendly place.

Yayoi murders her husband, and all the other women cut up the cadaver and dispose it around Tokyo’s suburbs. That’s only the beginning. They now cannot stop what they have started, for things have gone beyond their control.

I like the book till here. I have given four stars on Goodreads. I still like the book but I don’t see myself recommending it, for I am worried about the all the ghoulish details.

Natsuo Kirino’s observation on gender equality in workplace makes for a great point to discuss. Masako, despite being talented and incredibly focussed at work, is not allowed to grow, only because she is a woman. The men who joined after her are enjoying higher compensations and promotions. I was thankful to Kirino for dedicating a chapter just for that.

I loved the idea that four unassuming women — three of them are pressed by financial crisis — were courageous in their own ways to chop up a body in their bathroom, and tried their best to lead a normal life even after the incident that would have shaken anybody’s core. Although there was no camaraderie among them, they were united by their own problems, by their selfishness. If they were bonded by a heartwarming friendship, perhaps, the book wouldn’t have come across this cold and clinical.

My problems lie here — I do not find Masako’s motive convincing. I understand that she is shutting herself away from the world, her family is dysfunctional, her 20-year-old career turned futile, and that there is a huge void in her life and she decides to fill it in an unconventional way. Despite that, I still wanted a strong reason for Masako to jump into this pool of blood and flesh and bones.

The biggest of problems is this: The climax. I didn’t expect Masako to identify herself with Satake (I choose not to mention anything more about him!). I didn’t want her to find pleasure in being raped, nor did I want her to think that he was the love of her life. When I reached that part, all the bathroom scenes seemed less nauseous. Perhaps, that was a strong statement. But till then, Masako looked human in some way. She might not have drowned in guilt like others, but she still seemed human. After she began adoring Satake, she seemed even more lost and cold.

I enjoyed reading Out. The horror tested my endurance. When I was brushing this morning, I measured my bathroom in my head, and envisaged having a corpse there. I shook my head harder to dispel the image. Sigh!

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25 thoughts on “Out: Unleashed Monsters

  1. Kirino seems to have captured the imagination of the reader – clearly there must be parts of the narrative with which the reader empathises. Much of your description of the kind of book it is, leads me to believe that it engages the masochistic part of a reader. The writing must’ve been good to keep the reader engaged.
    PS: I haven’t read the book.

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  2. It has been a long time, six years at least, since I read this book, so I am a poor person to discuss it now. But, I do remember how graphic and horrible it was, and how I, too, struggled with the fact that the women were not close. As I recall, my impression was that the motive came from feeling so downtrodden by the masculine gender the women felt they had to do something. I enjoyed the book as a thriller of sorts, even though it is terribly gory, something I find in many Japanese novels of this genre. Thanks for reading it for the JLC11, and I am off to add your review to our list. Xo

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  3. I’m back from my month in the USA and ready to get around my blogging traps again. Thanks for visiting my blog while I was away, Deepika.

    I can’t answer your question re this book because I haven’t read it, though I have it on my TBR. I have though read GROTESQUE. Quite a long time ago now, so I can’t even talk about it in detail, but it had a similar tone I think to OUT. It’s a crime novel too, and the motivations are not necessarily comprehensible, as I recollect. I think, to some degree, we have to take it as read as part of the modern disaffected world Kirino creates. In this world, “normal” motivations don’t exist. At least that’s how I remember reading the one I read. This probably doesn’t help!

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    1. Welcome back, Sue. Thank you for that observation. It makes a lot of sense to me, if I look back and think about Masako’s actions. Having no motivation is a motivation in someway there. I get it. Thank you, Sue.

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  4. Oh no, this is not soulful nourishment, as a discerning reader I could not make myself ingest this. I can read Han Kang’s Human Acts, because she faces up to inhumanity with a humane purpose, she’s been exposed to images that won’t leave her mind and so she writes a novel to try and deal with it, and takes us all along with her, but without the humbling motivation, I’m unlikely to be tempted to fill my over imaginative mind with something like this. I’m not sure this genre suits you either Deepika, back to the children’s books and the spiritually fulfilling fiction like the Raga novel please!!

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  5. I read this book and her Grotesque and Real world several years ago. I enjoyed the picture of the lives of women left out of the prosperity of Tokyo, a venture into the dark side. This year for both events I read her short story, “The Floating Forest”, focusing on the teenage daughter of a famous writer. I enjoyed your post a lot.

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  6. This one leaves such a strong impression, doesn’t it? I really enjoyed it though I agree it is very brutal, I tend to enjoy cozy crime more. But I found this one suspenseful. I think making this a clear-cut feminist thriller would have been very satisfying but I also liked that the writer showed how these women’s experiences have made them too complex and too messed up and that such a world won’t offer a sane way out.
    Hope your next read is comforting and uplifting! Have you read Emma Reeves Worst Witch series? Might be just the ticket, if the adaptation is anything to go πŸ˜ŠπŸ“š

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      1. Oh yay, hope you’ll get to read and enjoy the books. The show is so fun, I will need to check out the books as well 😊
        Also you disappeared from FB, everything okay? Or too many daily walk pics from me?😭

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      2. Oh. No. No. I just had a feeling that I was spending too much time there, Bina. I will miss your daily walk pics. Wait. I promised to be with you in your healing process. I shouldn’t leave. I am coming back now. Have you posted your today’s pics?

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      3. Oh gosh you are too sweet, no worries!πŸ˜ŠπŸ’• Just thought I’d check in. You know I had the same problem with twitter so I have been more absent there. More present on fb tho πŸ˜‚ Go enjoy other places, we have many other places to talk😊

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