The immediate connection that crossed my mind when I started reading CHRONICLE OF MY MOTHER by Yasushi Inoue is with another Japanese novel THE TWILIGHT YEARS by Sawako Ariyoshi. That however is a surface likeness. YEARS was a novel and was very external. It utilized literary mechanisms and dealt with the elderly father’s senility as viewed or encountered by others.
MOTHER ,on the other hand is autobiographical, straight forward in description. Much of it is an almost clinical examination of Inoue’s mother’s senility – how it manifests itself, patterns, and what happens when it does. Particularly interesting (and sadly touching) is how he describes the order of his mother’s forgetfulness, how she wipes out each decade backwards from her 80’s (she is 80 plus at the beginning of the story) to her 70’s to her 60’s etc.
Another interesting part of the way Inoue tells his story (this is his mother’s story) is the book is divided into three sections and she passes away at the beginning of the third section. The rest of that section flashes back to her last few days alive as well as some incidents from her past which she is now reliving through her senility.
MOTHER almost reads like a scientific case examination. At times, it may feel a bit cold but it is a very thorough examination of the mind of someone undergoing senile dementia. It is never boring and flows very well. It’s sad but that’s the inevitable process of life- something Inoue never loses sight of despite his closeness to the subject.
By the way, my post THE TWILIGHT YEARS can be found here http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.com/2011/07/twilight-years-by-sawako-ariyoshi.html