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"THE SOUND OF INSECTS – Record Of A Mummy" is not a film adaptation of literature, but rather the cinematic rapprochement of a fictional text.
X’s dramatic monologue is not addressed to anyone in particular. It is neither descriptive nor retrospective, but deals entirely with the moment. There is no lamentation, no self-pity, no sentimentality. On the contrary, a subliminal self-irony even emerges at times. The text is unobtrusive; it suggests no morals and refrains from measuring value, thereby rendering its impact very direct.
X's lack of origin and history, his anonymity is analogous to the general alienation of the human being in a global world; the interchangeability of the negligible "characteristics" of his personality corresponds with the attitude towards life in an out-and-out materialistic society. He only becomes a vital, tangible individual – for himself as well – with his extraordinary capacity for suffering and the monstrous masochism of his act. Suicide by self-imposed starvation is an extremely intimate way to die, X wrote in his diary, because one is preoccupied with oneself for such a long time.
Ultimately, the nameless man’s manner of dying also constitutes the most radical form of renouncement: a total retreat from the hustle and bustle in an achievement-oriented society, the unmitigated refusal to consume, to partake in the haste of this life.
The underlying criticism of today’s materialism is palpable. Shimada clearly demands that one take a stance on the unique potential of life. The absence of any comment on the part of the author offers no solace or reconciliation whatsoever, leaving instead the answers to such vexing questions entirely to the viewer.
Masahiko Shimada was born in Tokyo in 1961 and moved to Kawasaki when he was four years old. As a junior at Tokyo University of Foreign Languages, Shimada published the novella Yasashii Sayoku No Tame No Kiyukyoku (A Divertimento for Leftists, 1983), which was nominated for the Akutagawa Award. In 1984 he won the Noma Bungei Award for First Novels for his Muyu Okoku No Tame No Ongaku (Music for the Kingdom of Somnambulism). After spending a year in New York as a visiting professor at Columbia University, Shimada returned to Japan to publish Yume Tsukai (translated as Dream Messenger, 1988), an intercultural story about an orphan who earns money as a rental child. Higan Sensei (Master and Discipline, 1992), which reinterprets Natsume Soseki's Kokoro, won the Izumi Kyoka Award. In Rokoko-cho (Rococo City, 1993), Shimada turned to science fiction, recasting his hometown, Yomiuri Rando, as a sort of cyber-amusement-park. Other works by Shimada include Yogensha No Namae (The Name of the Prophet, 1992), which explores religious themes; Uku Onna, Shizumu Otoko (Floating Woman, Drowning Man, 1996), a masochistic sea novel; and numerous other works.
In addition to fiction, Shimada has published extensively in nonfiction and dramatic forms. He directed and performed in his own play Yurariumu (Ulalium) in 1990. His Japanese translation of Steve Erickson's Rubicon Beach appeared in 1991. (Hisayo Ogushi)