“The Counterfeiter” by Yasushi Inoue is one of the best character studies I’ve ever read. Without ever actually introducing the character of Hosen Hara in present time (he appears only through the recollection of others), Inoue has created one of the most powerfully tragic characters I’ve ever come across. The failed artist turned producer of illegal fireworks and forger of his friend’s, the great artist Keigaku , paintings . The distance between the Mozart and the Salieri’s of the world is small indeed.
The actual name of the books is THE COUNTERFEITER AND OTHER STORIES and there are two other stories. The second story, “Obasute”, contrasts a narrator’s modern dysfunctional family with the legends of a mountainous area in Japan where people left their parents to die once they got over a certain age. It’s the second best story. A bit brief and not fleshed out but perfect descriptions of the characters and I liked the connection made at the ending.
The third story “The Full Moon” contrasts the season of the harvest moon with the lifecycle of a Japanese executive from his promotion to his downfall. A clever idea but not as deftly written as the other two. Again, Inoue really has a way with endings.
The trick of “The Counterfeiter”, the secret to the story’s brilliance, is how you don’t see the detail even though it’s there so skillfully is it enmeshed in the narrative and pared down to its barest necessity. I really look forward to reading more Inoue.