ME – by Tomoyuki Hoshino

Me by Tomoyuki Hoshino is deceptively simple. It’s only 256 pages long and a quick read, but there’s so much to unpack from it.

It started like a crime novel when Hitoshi took a stranger’s phone at McDonald’s on a whim, which we later know belong to Daiki. When Hitoshi got home, he received a phone call from Daiki’s mother. He faked to be Daiki and asked Mother to transfer 900k yen (around 8k dollars) to his account. Daiki’s mother truly believed Hitoshi was her son and proceeded as requested.

When Hitoshi showed up at Daiki’s house, Mother treated him as Daiki without any problems at all. Befuddled he went back to his own home, only to find his own mother did not recognize him, and there was another man who looked like him living in the house. The young man’s name was Hitoshi. The original Hitoshi then went on to live his life as Daiki and called the other Hitoshi ME.

After this point, the novel develops into a philosophical novel dealing with identity crisis, Narcissism, or Buddhism viewpoints about consciousness and reincarnation depending on how you view it. Hoshino also addressed many other social issues in contemporary Japan.

The novel ends in a dystopian society which is a surprising ending but not without reasonable development.

ME by Tomoyuki Hoshino is a brilliant and challenging novel. It won the Kenzaburo Oe prize in 2010. Oe stated himself in the afterword that chapter 3 and 4 of the book “surpass even Kobo Abe, Japan’s great forerunner in the power of literary thought.”

I was excited to find out Hoshino just won the Tanizaki prize last year in 2018 for his novel Hono. I hope they will translate this book very soon. Can’t wait to read it!

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