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Suzuki Izumi

Entry updated 7 June 2021. Tagged: Author.

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(1949-1986) Japanese author who, at the beginning of her troubled career, quit her teenage job as a key-punch operator after a Fanzine story gained an honourable mention in a competition run by the literary magazine Shōsetsu Gendai. Moving to Tokyo in 1970, she moonlighted as a bar hostess, nude model and actress under the name Naomi Asaka or Naomi Senkō. Her husband, the saxophonist Kaoru Abe, died of a drug overdose in 1978, after which Suzuki threw herself into an incandescent creative streak, ending with her suicide a decade later.

Translator Daniel Joseph has characterized Suzuki's work as "a kind of SF version of kitchen-sink realism, told from the perspective of the one stuck doing the dishes." In that regard, it draws heavily on the sort of radical 1970s thinking typified by Shulamith Firestone, whose The Dialectic of Sex: A Case for Feminist Revolution (1972 nonfiction; trans Hiroko Kobayashi as Sei no Benshōhō – josei kaihō kakumei no baai, 1972) similarly interrogates the impact, or lack thereof, of Technology on gender roles and other elements of human society. Suzuki's work excels, in particular, at the use of unreliable narrators – earnest tellers of tales, initially and sometimes enduringly unaware that they have been duped by the authorities or the System. Accordingly, many of her stories dwell on sudden moments of Conceptual Breakthrough, such as that in "Yoru no Picnic" (1981 venue unknown; in Koi no Psychedelic coll 1982; trans Sam Bett as "Night Picnic" in Terminal Boredom coll 2021), in which a family of creatures that identify as human beings pore over a Library of forgotten books, comically and ham-fistedly trying to reconstruct what it means to be an Earthling.

Onna to Onna no Yō no Naka ["The World of Women and Women"] (July 1977 S-F Magazine; fixup 1978; trans Daniel Joseph as "Women and Women" in Terminal Boredom coll 2021) posits a future Dystopia, riven by Overpopulation and lack of resources, in which men are confined to a dangerous Special Residence Zone. With men in such short supply, women are driven to bond with each other, and to collaborate in child-rearing, in an extended meditation on whether a male-free society might not be ultimately desirable. However, the protagonist ironically and transgressively proves to have a love that dares not speak its name in a Sapphic utopia: an interest in boys. This, and stories like it, prompted the critic Mari Kotani to identify Suzuki as a key creator among Japan's Women SF Writers, and a prime catalyst for later explorations of themes in Gender Politics (see, for example, Yumi Matsuo; Ryū Murakami; Yōko Tawada). This, however, has not precluded Suzuki's co-option as an icon of dissolute youth and self-destruction, particularly when her appearances on the Media Landscape during her short lifetime were so eye-catching.

In 1993, Suzuki's 16-year-old daughter sued the writer Mayumi Inaba for invasion of privacy over Endless Waltz (1992), a novel about Suzuki and Abe. This failed to prevent the production of Koji Wakamatsu's film adaptation Endless Waltz (1995), which similarly presented the couple as punk-era bohemians in an abusive, co-dependent relationship. The ghost of Suzuki's work can occasionally be glimpsed in metatextual references throughout Japanese pop culture, from the name of the musical group Love Psychedelico, to the choice of title for the Mobile Suit Gundam Anime film Endless Waltz (1998). In much the same fashion as Yukio Mishima, the matter of Suzuki's life and death have largely come to obscure appraisal of her actual work. [JonC]

Izumi Suzuki

born Itō, Shizuoka, Japan: 10 July 1949

died Tokyo: 17 February 1986

works

collections

  • Atashi wa Tenshi ja Nai ["I'm No Angel"] (Tokyo: Bronze-sha, 1973) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Zankoku no Meruhen ["Cruel Fairy Tales"] (Tokyo: Rakuten, 1975) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Koi no Psychedelic ["Love's Psychedelic"] (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobō, 1982) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Koe no Nai Hibi ["Days Without a Voice"] (Tokyo: Bunyū-sha, 1993) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Izumi Goroku (Tokyo: Bunyū-sha, 2001) [coll: pb/]
  • Keiyaku: Suzuki Izumi SF Zenshū ["Covenant: The Complete SF of Izumi Suzuki"] (Tokyo: Bunyū-sha, 2014) [coll: binding unknown/]
    • Terminal Boredom: Stories (London: Verso, 2021) [coll: selections from the above: trans by Polly Barton, Sam Bett, David Boyd, Daniel Joseph, Aiko Masubuchi, Helen O'Horan: pb/photograph of author by Nobuyoshi Araki]

nonfiction

  • Ai Suru Anata ["Loving You"] (Tokyo: Gendai Hyōron-sha, 1973) [nonfiction: coll: pb/]
  • Itsudatte Tea Time ["Tea Time Anytime"] (Tokyo: Hakuya Shobō, 1978) [nonfiction: coll: binding unknown/]

about the author

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