"One strong theme in Out is that the bonds that exist in society, whether between families, friends, or co-workers have irreparably broken down. It’s almost Existential—are you saying that in the end we really alone? Is there such thing as society or community? Or is it all an illusion. . .
I think the existence of the idea of “society” is only an illusion that exists inside the heart. However, that often becomes a reality, not illusion when you commit an anti-social act. I would say people unconsciously reveal their true violent nature. I feel that humans are solitary creatures. What saves us from this solitude is not this vague notion of “the public” but the human connections and ties I mentioned above in the first question." (Interview on Japan review .net)
This "anti-social act" is murder. Yayoi strangles, with a leather belt, her abusive husband. Then with the assistance of her co-workers covers up this crime, this involves cutting up the body & disposing of the parts.
We start this book, meeting the women as they are about to start the midnight shift at a bento* factory. Masoka, Kuniko, Yoshi & Yayoi work together on the conveyer belt preparing the separate parts of the bento boxes. We learn about the pointless day to day reality of their existence, home life's ranging from abusive partners to cold sterile relationships with family that if they've not physically left, have at least done so emotionally. These women are domestic slaves with no real presence in a society that cannot respect them, as it doesn't really see them, they are automaton, there for production - whether its bento boxes or babies.
It's in this environment that Yayoi steps out of her role of perfect wife & in a fit of passion, murders her abusive philandering husband (whose blown all their money gambling & chasing a prostitute).
"At that moment, her patience snapped. With lightning speed she slipped off her belt & wrapped it around his neck"
"He needs to suffer more, she thought. He's got no right to go on living like this!
Yayoi then calls one of her colleagues (Masoka) who arranges the disposal of the corpse. Masoka along with Yoshi use a couple of sashimi knives to butcher & bag up the body, then with some help from Kuniko they dump the bags around Tokyo. The body parts are discovered, the police step into the picture as do the Yakuza & a ruthless night club owner.
It's from this point that story spirals out. What slight ties they have with each other easily fray & they realise that alone they have to cope with the consequences of their actions. For some this may lead to freedom, for the others another path is dictated.
Some Question's raised.
- Would you do this for a colleague? At which point would it be ok, just keeping quiet, the disposal, the cutting up? Would this be different for a friend?
- How far removed (alienated) would you need to be/to feel, for this to be acceptable, at least on some level?
- At the start of this crime (for Masoka at least), how altruistic are these actions?
- Are they (the women) inherently evil, or do they cross the line, if so at which point & are the points the same for each of them?
- Are their actions purely amoral as opposed to immoral?
- Is there such a thing as petty evil?
- If they know it's wrong, but it is seen as a judgement by a society that doesn't acknowledge their lives, can it still relate to them?
- Are we (Human beings) intrinsically evil? Are all our philosophies, codes, laws etc. merely ways to blind us to our true nature ?
I loved this book, in one sense it's a portrayal of a certain segment of Japanese society, with it's graphic description of not just the underbelly but the entrails of a culture normally hidden behind an elaborate mask.
Yet on another level this is an old fashioned page turner & by that I mean you will read it before you sleep & upon awakening you will wipe the sleep from your eyes, then start from where you left off the night before. Out is violent physically & sexually, its dark and so gritty you may feel the need to use an eyewash, but as the character Yoshie expresses " that she would follow Masoka to hell" so will you, page by page.