3.68 (74 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author)  , Translated by 
3.68 (74 ratings by Goodreads)

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This thought-provoking and intriguing tale, by the Akutagawa Prize-nominated master short story writer Kanji Hanawa, revolves around the extraordinary real story of the seven-year-old boy who went missing in the bear-inhabited forests of northern Japan for six whole days in 2016, after his parents had apparently abandoned him as a punishment.

In Backlight, a child is left alone at the side of a road in the mountains of Hokkaido in northern Japan by his parents. When they return moments later, the boy is gone. Ishida, a Professor of Psychology is enlisted as part of the search team.

As days pass, the search goes on and the number of people involved reaches more than one thousand. Ishida and his colleagues assess, analyse and discuss mostly at a safe and comfortable distance, taking them on their own journey from theories concerning the whereabouts of the child, to the very heart of the Japanese psyche.

Backlight, translated by Richard Nathan, is a complex and challenging look at an unfolding emergency, a culture and a country.

Red Circle Minis: Original, Short and Compelling Reads

Backlight is part of Red Circle Minis, a series of short captivating books by Japan's finest contemporary writers that brings the narratives and voices of Japan together as never before. Each book is a first edition written specifically for the series and is being published in English first.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 66 pages
  • 108 x 178 x 4.06mm | 58.97g
  • Red Circle
  • United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1912864045
  • 9781912864041
  • 478,377

Review quote

'The superb Backlight tracks with admirable patience the moments before and after the Hokkaido boy's disappearance...To be locked in the house is a punishment in the West, as many current readers must be feeling only too well; to be locked out is a punishment in Japan. It is a beautiful passage in which Japanese identity is explored.' TLS

'I have admired, the Akutagawa Prize-nominated Hanawa's literary style for a long time. Each time he is nominated, I recommend him. And I am delighted that he continues to write at the same prize-winning level.' Shohei Ooka, novelist and winner of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award, as well as the Noma, Asahi and Yomiuri Prizes

"an important work of social commentary doing what all the greatest short stories do: opening a rabbit hole of thought down which the reader will fall". The Japan Times

'At short novella-length, Backlight is a quick story -- but quite effective at raising interesting questions, including about cultural and social differences and attitudes, and parental responsibilities...the universal issues and questions it addresses give it the air of larger work.' The Complete Review

'This is a little piece of intrigue, and make no mistake, it's intriguing to see a whole series of books like this being launched, from a tiny specialist house...The intrigue is definitely continued with the contents, for this builds on a real-life case of one Japanese family.' NB Magazine

'There's a sense that Hanawa is subtly mocking his characters, and the way society handles events such as the boy's disappearance. As the 'experts' enjoy the hot baths and fancy dinners, their theories on the nature of abandonment and the different ways western and Japanese children cope with the concept of freedom only serve to show how little they really know.' Tony's Reading List.

'The universal and timeless theme of this thought-provoking and intriguing story is one of identity and self-worth. It cleverly touches on the realms of family dynamics, child psychology and even the influence of legends and fairytales on the collective consciousness - whether inside or outside Japan.' Alex Pearl, author of Sleeping with the Blackbirds

'Using a real-world news story that's fresh in everyone's minds as a way to discuss with the reader cultural anomalies in Japan and how it varies from that of outside nations is something that had me nodding and grinning, thinking, ah, you clever clogs.' Books and Bao

'He writes with a surreal style, similar to how I do on occasion, which I find very interesting and stimulating. But what makes me really happy is that he does it so much better than I do.' Makoto Shiina, author of Gaku Monogatari
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Rating details

3.68 out of 5 stars
- 74 ratings
5 24% (18)
4 35% (26)
3 26% (19)
2 14% (10)
1 1% (1)
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