I’ve been waiting years for an English translation of Ryu Murakami’s Audition to be released. I became familiar with it through the Takashi Miike film, which has picked up the reputation of being one of the greatest horror movies ever. That’s pretty well deserved too.
So I came into the book with certain expectations, and found it to be a bit less terrifying, but a better example of horror. Now this is a book that can’t really be described without a spoiler, but its one that is pretty obvious based solely on the book jacket so I’m going to go for it.
The story is told from the perspective of Aoyama, a widowed single father who has just decided that he is ready to remarry. In order to find a wife he joins forces with a friend at a video production company to hold an audition for a film that will likely never be made. That way he can come in to the casting sessions as a producer and hopefully find the woman of his dreams amongst the runners-up. The plan works, and he becomes hopelessly infatuated with Yamasaki Asami, a former ballerina with an unknown past.
All of Aoyama’s friends warn him away from her throughout the book, but he remains blinded by her, and as this book is told in the first person, so is the reader. It’s a nice approach to take for the story, which makes the famed torture scene at the end of the book all the more horrifying. But unlike the film which gets its terror from the unexpected story twist, the book relies on the Aoyama’s inability to comprehend the situation to achieve its horror. And this works admirably! Murakami takes love, which lets face it, can be pretty incomprehensible at times, and twists that into the sort of horror usually found in a Lovecraft story. Well done.