I'm feeling really good about the number of non-English/American novels that I've read recently, and here's another that I've been wanting to read for so long. Forbidden Colours is an avant-garde Japanese novel that I was supposed to read on my uni course, but it was one that I only managed to get half-way through before we had to move on. I was gutted, but I finally found time to finish it off, although I did have to start from the beginning again to remind me of all the plot intricacies of the first half.
Forbidden Colours is initially narrated by protagonist and author within the novel, Shunsuke. He has written a myriad of books, largely about relationships and happy marriages, but he hides his secret of hating women behind them. He detests them, and considers the vagina abhorrent. As such, he is on his third wife by time the novel starts.
When Shunsuke goes away on a brief holiday, he sees a beautiful young woman, who is in love with an equally beautiful young man named Yuichi. Shunsuke feels a connection to this young man, and they grow close. He discovers a misogyny within Yuichi akin to his own, and they make a sordid agreement: Shunsuke will pay Yuichi 500 000 yen to marry the young woman and make her life completely miserable.
Shunsuke has realised that Yuichi is a young homosexual, and becomes attracted to the beauty in him. Soon the narrative switches to be based around Yuichi. His beauty is a magnet that attracts men and women wherever he goes. He soon begins to frequent a cafe for homosexuals, and becomes entangled with many men there. He will only pick the most beautiful, and will never agree to sleep with a foreigner.
Whilst this is happening, he still beds his wife at home and gets her pregnant. He is terrified about the birth, about her having a son who lives his lief like Yuichi does. This drives a wedge even further between them. His mother and wife assume he visits prostitutes, and he allows them to be kept in this deceit.
'Forbidden Colours' is the English translation of the Japanese title, but the original title is also a euphemism for homosexuality. The story reminds me a little of a more explicit Dorian Gray. Yuichi struggles with the morality behind his actions, but is obsessed by his own beauty and cannot stop.
Have you read it? What did you think?