KAFKA ON THE SHORE (2005)
"Have you fallen in love with somebody, by any chance?" he asks.
"You seem kind of out of it."
I don't have any idea how I should respond. "Oshima," I finally say, "this is a pretty weird thing to ask, but do you think it's possible for someone to become a ghost while they're still alive?"
He stops straightening up the counter and looks at me. "A very interesting question, actually. Are you asking about the human spirit in a literary sense - metaphorically, in other words? Or do you mean in actual fact?"
"More in actual fact, I guess," I say.
"The assumption that ghosts really exist?"
Oshima removes his glasses, wipes them with his handkerchief and puts them back on. "That's what's called a 'living spirit'. I don't know about in foreign countries, but that kind of thing appears a lot in Japanese literature. The Tale of Genji
, for instance, is filled with living spirits. In the Heian period - or at least in it's psychological realm - on occasion people could become living spirits and travel through space to carry out whatever desires they had. Have you read Genji
I shake my head.
"Our library has a couple of modern translations, so it might be a good idea to read one. Anyway, an example is when Lady Rokujo - she is one of Prince Genji's lovers - becomes so consumed with jealousy over Genji's main wife, Lady Aoi, that she turns into an evil spirit that possesses her. Night after night she attacks Lady Aoi in her bed until she finally kills her. Lady Aoi was pregnant with Genji's child, and that news is what inspired Lady Rokujo's hatred. Genji calls in priests to exorcise the evil spirit, but to no avail. The evil spirit is impossible to resist.
"But the most interesting part of the story is that Lady Rokujo had no inkling that she'd become a living spirit. She'd have nightmares and wake up, only to discover that her long black hair smelled of smoke. Not having any idea what was going on, she was totally confused. In fact, the smoke came from the incense the priests lit as they prayed for Lady Aoi. Completely unaware of it, she'd been flying through space and passing through the tunnel of her subconscious into Aoi's bedroom. This is one of the most uncanny and thrilling episodes in Genji
. Later when Lady Rokujo learns what she's been doing, she regrets the sins she's committed and shaves off her hair and renounces the world."