Death of a Salaryman
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Wonderfully surreal, painfully real, this is the story of a Japanese salaryman who loses his job at a TV corporation, on his 40th birthday, and slips through to a different layer of society, a shadowy world where curious characters show him the way – a travelling salesman with a passion for Elvis, a pachinko pro with dreams of returning to Hawaii, and a TV producer who will stop at nothing to get his big break – and Kenji sets off on a roller-coaster ride of misadventures. He tries to make money from the pachinko machines – and succeeds – but his conventional, snobbish hardworking wife finds this demeaning. He has a hated mother-in-law who’s a genius at winning magazine competitions and knows the wife of a bank manager. So our hero ends up instead in the postroom of a huge bank… With a little help from his friends, he makes his way out and via a bizarre chain of happenstance (including being struck by lightning while wielding a golf club) finds himself responsible for a TV reality game show so weirdly believable that some crazed tv executive may well be pitching it now. Against all odds, the salaryman dies – to be reborn as a human being. Fresh, original and funny without signalling its humour, this astonishing debut novel brilliantly captures the fast-changing culture of Japan (where the author lived and worked for a brief period) and its surreal underside in an engaging portrait of an ordinary man battling with the contradictory demands of contemporary life.