Ding dong... dong.... dong...... --------
The continuing sound of a bell faraway awakened me. I found myself in a small room, with only one bed and one chair as its decoration. A barrred window provided the only light in the room. It was midday. Strange. This is really strange. I have no memory of anything before the toiling of the bells. I touched my face, to find glasses on my face. A chin sticking out. Strange. This was not a face I knew. Suddenly, I heard knocking on the wall. A girl's voice cried out.
"My love, my love, my love, my love! Do you hear me? Answer me if you hear me. My love. My love. Say you remember me. It is I, your bride you yourself killed. But they brought me back to life, so just say you remember me, and who you are, and we can go freely, back home!"
"She is right, you know." A man had appeared in my room. "Do you remember who you are?"
No, I said. I had no memory of this room, the girl next door, this man or even myself.
"Do not worry, in due time, you will remember who you are. Let me introduce myself, I am professor Wakabayashi of Kyushu Imperial University. You are the subject of an experiment by the brilliant professor Masaki, who died last month. Professor Masaki was working on a method to cure mental patients. He believed that madness is a form of genetically inherited memory. It is passed on for hundreds of generations, making some people relive the memories of his ancestors. The professor has gone now, but he believed you would be his first succesful subject. And indeed, you have finally awakened from a long slumber and you are on the verge of remembering what happened to you."
I was not sure what the man was talking about. Was I a madman? While I was not clothed in a straightjacket, this room did look like a clinic's room. Would this explain why I have no memories of before I awoke?
"I want you to read this now. Professor Masaki, and I, believe that this will help you remember your past," the man said, and he took a book and a bunch of papers from his bag. I took the scrap of paper on top.
The Three Great Occult Books
The Three Great Occult Books (Sandaikisho) refer to the three Japanese detective / fantasy novels The Black Death Mansion Murder Case (Kokushikan Satsujin Jiken, 1935) Dogura Magura (1935) and Offerings to Nothingness (Kyomu he no Kumotsu, 1964). Some add in Takemoto Kenji's Paradise Lost in a Box (Hako no naka no Shitsuraku, 1977), calling them the Four Great Occult Books, but there is no general consensus about this. In China, the term kisho refers to works of great, superior quality, as used in the Four Great Classical Novels, but in Japan the term has the nuance of uniqueness and occultism.
As soon as I saw the title Dogura Magura, I felt my whole body shudder. Professor Wakabayashi seemed pleased to see me react like that.
"You're remembering. Here, read this now," he said and he handed me two small pocket books, with questionable covers. The text was in Japanese, but I could read it for some reason. It read Dogura Magura. I started to read the two books. It felt like it took me days, weeks to go through it, but professor Wakabayashi was always standing there, watching my every reaction to the story told within the pages.
Dogura Magura (1935)
By Yumeno Kyuusaku.
1926. A young, amnesiac man awakens in an isolation room of the Kyushu Imperial University. He is told by professor Wakabayashi that he is the subject of an experiment to cure mental patients and that they are on the verge of a breakthrough. The man only needs to remember who he is and what happened to succesfully end the experiment. The man is led into the room of the deceased head of the project, professor Masaki, and is shown several documents and videos to help his memory. Among them are the research theses of professor Masaki on psychological heredity, a document called Dogura Magura written by a madman and the curious research of professor Wakabayashi and Masaki on the murder of the young madman Kure Ichirou on his young bride Moyoko. And so the amnesiac tries to figure out who he is and what led him to be the subject of an experiment, despite the fact that every document seems to contradict the other.
Dogura magura: history unclear. Thought to be derived from the verbs tomado-u (v., to be confused), menkura-u (v., to be perplexed) in a Kyushu dialect.
I didn't understand anything. Why were professor Masaki and Wakabayashi appearing in this novel? Why did my situation seem to mimic that of the narrator of Dogura Magura? Why was there no clear ending to the story? Was the story all the imagination of a madman? Was it a dream? Or was someone trying to set him up? Was the narrator Kure Ichirou? The professor Wakabayashi who stood in front of me, threw a smile.
"You're confused. Naturally. I am sure you have a lot of questions. But first, tell me what you think about Dogura Magura. I will answer any questions afterwards. Write your thoughts down here. I will go out and get you food while you're writing," the professor said and left the room. He came back after what felt like an eternity. I had in my hands my note, of which I had no memory of writing.
About Dogura Magura
A very interesting story, as it is narrated by a man who might or might not be mad. Like the narrator, the reader is thrown into a spiral of confusion, as he is told the strange story of how the young man Kure Ichirou became mad and murdered his bride. The various documents presented to the narrator make up the bulk of the narrative and seem to guide the narrator slowly towards the truth behind the murder, the motive and the real murderer of Moyoko, but nothing is ever what it seems at first sight, or even second or third sight. Depending on whether you believe the narrator to be mad or not, and to believe everything, nothing or parts of the documents presented, you might figure out a truth, but there is no definite answer to anything. Considering that within Dogura Magura, there is a document also called Dogura Magura that is written by a madman, anything seems to go. This is a detective/mystery story in the broad sense of the word, dealing with a mystery (surrounding the narrator), but you're never sure about anything. The chaotic structure is one of the books defining traits however and the writing style is sure to suck any reader into its betrayingly deep story.
I handed the note to professor Wakabayashi. He seemed pleased. Now it was time for my questions, if I had any, he said. I had many.
"Am I the narrator of Dogura Magura? Why are you in the book... and here in front of me? What has Dogura Magura to do with my memory loss?"
"First of all, this isn't 1926, but 2013. And I am both the Wakabayashi from the book, and not. And as for your relation to Dogura Magura, let me first assure you are not the narrator from the book. But as for you who you are, you'll find out when you read the rest of the documents I have here.
Detecting Texts - The metaphysical detective story - from Poe to postmodernism (1999)
By: Patricia Merivale and Susan Elizabeth Sweeney
"A metaphysical detective story is a text that parodies or subverts traditional detective-story conventions - such as narrative closure and the detective's role as surrogate reader - with the intention, or at least the effect, of asking questions about mysteries of being and knowing which transcend the mere machinations of the mystery plot. Metaphysical detective stories often emphasize this transcendence, morever, by becoming self-reflexive."(p. 2)
"Is Dogura Magura a metaphysical detective story? Is this why you showed me this?," I asked. The professor coughed.
"Metaphysical detective story, postmodern detective story, anti-mystery, there have been many terms used in the past, and in the future for these kind of novels. Though post-modern would be strange to use on a book from 1935. But I didn't show you this note because I agree, or disagree with it. But it is connected to you. But I see you are tired. Go to sleep now, and we'll talk tomorrow."
I wanted to talk more, to figure out who I was, but professor Wakabayashi walked out of the room and locked it behind him. I sat on the bed. It was night now. I tried to sleep, but was afraid I would lose my memories again. Then suddenly, a man tapped me on the head. I had never seen the man before. I think.
"I am professor Masaki. I heard you woke up, so I came here to talk to you."
"Professor Masaki? But I heard you were dead?," I asked surprised.
"Heard that from professor Wakabayashi, right? Hahahahaha, I tell you, don't believe everything he says. He is trying to prove something, and will do anything to achieve his goal. Read this, and you will understand everything."
He gave me a sheet of paper. I looked up. The professor was gone.
Lament of the Reviewer
By: Professor Masaki Keishi of Kyushu Imperial University
▲Aaaaaaaa------ Look at the man trying to write down his thoughts in a logical way on something illogical... Trying to create order out of disorder. He tries to rectify it, to present it the chaos to others, but in his attemps, he falls victim to the confusion himself....
▲Aaaaaaa------ Look at the man with his notes... notes on structure... notes on the metaphysical... notes on narrative... but none of his notes describe how the feeling of the book... he was never told how to explain chaos through the order of grammar and words....
▲Aaaaaaa------ Look at the man staring at the book. Did he understand it? Didn't he understand it? Could he have understood it? Could anyone have understood it? Is it possible to understand something that does not wants to be understood?
▲Aaaaaaa------ Let us lament the reviewer, let us lament him, for he will not be among us sane anymore------- Aaaaaaaaa
It was morning. Professor Wakabayashi was standing in the room. He asked me what I was reading. I told him of professor Masaki's visit.
"I am sorry to say, but that is utterly impossible. Like I told you yesterday, professor Masaki died last month. He commited suicide, you know. But enough about him. Have you remembered already? Do you know why Dogura Magura is so important to you?"
I answered no. Strange. I felt my body wanted to scream yes. What is it? Do I understand? Strange.
"Well then, no need to hurry. I am sure you'll remember everything in due time. Here is a bit more for you to read," he said and he handed me a sheet of paper, and the two Dogura Magura books. The sheet of paper had one sentence.
It is impossible to summarize the book in a coherent manner
"Don't mind that," the professor said, "just try to read Dogura Magura again, maybe it will work this time."
I read, and I read, and nothing came out of it. I was sucked into the world again, but I never understood why. Not even what had happened. After I had finished the book, I decided to read the back of the book. The final sentence of the publisher's introduction burned into my eyes.
It is said that whoever reads this book, becomes mad
I felt a slight dizziness. Even though the midday sun was shining through the barred windows, everything started to become dark. Complete darkness. The last thing I remember before passing out, was the continuing sound of a bell faraway.
Ding dong... dong.... dong...... --------
Original Japanese title(s): 夢野久作 『ドグラ・マグラ』