The story : In the city of Otsuchi in Japan, more than a seven-hour drive north of Tokyo, a man once had the idea of installing a telephone booth in his garden, to welcome the sadness of the survivors of the tsunami of the 11 March 2011. Like Yui who lost her daughter and her mother that day. Or Takeshi who lost his wife, and whose daughter has since been unable to speak. All three will meet around this “telephone of the wind”, where more and more survivors come to tell their story in an attempt to calm down. What we entrust to the winda delicate novel published in March 2021 by Albin Michel editions, has been available since January 2023 in paperback from 10/18 editions.
Words offered to the wind
To enter the Bell Gardia handset, you have to go to Mr. Suzuki’s garden, in a small town not far from the places devastated by the tsunami. Many residents are survivors. All have lost husband, wife, parents or children. A mute pain in the face of the violence of fate, which Mr. Suzuki, in his garden, offers to transform into words that will be carried by the wind to the deceased.
From this poetic starting point, Laura Imai Messina will tell the intimate mourning experienced by two people, seemingly inconsolable. Yui never cried. Stunned by her loss, this Japanese radio journalist concentrates on her work, which she does rigorously. Takeshi, a doctor at the Tokyo hospital, doesn’t know what to do to get his daughter, mute since her mother’s death, to speak again.
Brought together for the same purpose, these two characters will meet each month to make the car journey to Bell Guardia, to try to speak to their loved ones who have disappeared. And little by little in this ritual which becomes immutable, their story takes shape, in their silences which follow the words. The day they decide to take Hana, Takeshi’s daughter, a miracle will happen.
A novel about life after
In Mr. Suzuki’s garden, they will also meet other souls in pain, like their own, and want to relieve them, to their measure. It is a novel about the return to life which is tinkered with through the small pleasures of everyday life and the gift of oneself. Laura Imai Messina intersperses the chapters of her story with recipes, the address of the bookstore where Yui goes, the album that Takeshi reads to his daughter one evening… Sorts of poetic Polaroid snapshots to which his characters cling , like so many Post-it notes fragilely glued and just waiting to fly away.
Little by little, the afterlife makes its way into the minds of Yui and Takeshi, but how not to think about the idea of replacement? This thought which obsesses them will dissolve like an effervescent cachet in fresh water… Because the absent will naturally be part of this family which is being reconstituted very slowly: through the words, the stories told, the ghosts will accompany the living. and help them to love each other.
Thanks to the handset of Bell Guardia, to this dreamlike dialogue, Laura Imai Messina accurately describes the secret correspondences and the symmetries that the world of the dead maintains with that of the living. “The Wind Phone”she explains with simplicity, “is a metaphor reminding us that it is precious to cling to both happiness and sorrow. That even in the face of the losses of life, we can open ourselves to all the gifts it gives us.”
Extract : “She did not like to talk about her gray areas, but she had nevertheless ended up accepting them. This was how she was able to take care of herself again. (…) She knew it now: life wears out; over time, it causes innumerable flaws and it is these that shape everyone’s story, that arouse the desire to look further to see what they conceal. (…)
Thus was born joy. It sprang from a restored word that would always remind him of the before and seal the after. Like this wind born right here, of these two trains passing each other in Yokohama station, one coming, the other going in the opposite direction.”
“What we entrust to the wind”, by Laura Imai Messina, translated from Italian by Marianne Faurobert, available in paperback at editions 10/18.