- Paperback: 256 pages
- Published: 6/6/17
- IBSN: 9781617754487
- e-IBSN: 9781617755569
- Genre: Fiction
The unsettling story of a young man who suffers an identity crisis after getting tangled up in a telephone scam.
“There’s speculative fiction that imagines other worlds and alternate realities, and then there’s the kind that unsettles us precisely by its slight tweaking of everyday situations. ME is the perfect example of the latter. When the narrator engages in a common telephone scam, he suddenly finds himself inhabiting a new identity. No one seems to notice that he and others have switched families, as if the switch itself had never happened. A strange, unnerving story set in contemporary Japan.”
“Mr. Hoshino’s superb talent allows for a development of the richly imaginative details that is completely natural, without any hint of forced contrivances . . . There is a clear distinction to be seen here between ME and the sort of television drama or potboiler fiction already available that take up telephone fraud as a social topic. Nor does the novel allow itself to slip into simplistic allegory. The weight of reality it creates reflects the substantiality of the author’s prowess. [Chapters 3 and 4] surpass even Kōbō Abe, Japan’s great forerunner in the power of literary thought. The author has leaped to a higher level.”
—Kenzaburō Ōe, Nobel Prize–winning author of The Silent Cry, from the afterword
“Tomoyuki Hoshino’s ME is a daring literary triumph, unlike any book you’re likely to read this year or any other. Inventive, absurd, and thrilling, Hoshino draws upon the work of a wide array of literary masters—Abe, Camus, Vonnegut, and Chandler—to create a character and world that’s wholly unique. A thoughtful, somewhat surreal exploration of the darkest self-reflexive tendencies of this modern moment. I strongly recommend it.”
—Joe Meno, author of Marvel and a Wonder
“There is more than a little of a great episode of Black Mirror in Tomoyuki Hoshino’s funny, frightening ME. But ME is considerably more than a clever premise, and as I moved deeper into mental and physical dislocation alongside its hero, I felt my own sense of reality being pulled apart. Hoshino’s sharp, understated prose, in Charles De Wolf’s excellent translation, is what makes this incredible journey possible. The whole is both pleasurable and profound.”
—Laird Hunt, author of The Evening Road
With an afterword by Kenzaburō Ōe. Translated from Japanese by Charles De Wolf.
This novel centers on the “It’s me” telephone scam—often targeting the elderly—that has escalated in Japan in recent years. Typically, the caller identifies himself only by saying, “Hey, it’s me,” and goes on to claim in great distress that he’s been in an accident or lost some money with which he was entrusted at work, etc., and needs funds wired to his account right away.
ME’s narrator is a nondescript young Tokyoite named Hitoshi Nagano who, on a whim, takes home a cell phone that a young man named Daiki Hiyama accidentally put on Hitoshi’s tray at McDonald’s. Hitoshi uses the phone to call Daiki’s mother, pretending he is Daiki, and convinces her to wire him 900,000 yen.
Three days later, Hitoshi returns home from work to discover Daiki’s mother there in his apartment, and she seems to truly believe Hitoshi is her son. Even more bizarre, Hitoshi discovers his own parents now treat him as a stranger; they, too, have a “me” living with them as Hitoshi. At a loss for what else to do, Hitoshi begins living as Daiki, and no one seems to bat an eye.
In a brilliant probing of identity, and employing a highly original style that subverts standard narrative forms, Tomoyuki Hoshino elevates what might have been a commonplace crime story to an occasion for philosophical reflection. In the process, he offers profound insights into the state of contemporary Japanese society.
TOMOYUKI HOSHINO was born in 1965 in Los Angeles, but moved to Japan when he was two. He made his debut as a writer in 1997 with the novella The Last Gasp, which won the Bungei Prize. His novel The Mermaid Sings Wake Up won the Mishima Yukio Prize, and Fantasista was awarded the Noma Literary New Face Prize. His other novels include Lonely Hearts Killer and The Tale of Rainbow and Chloe. ME is his latest novel.