Tokyo, 1938. Four amateur musicians passionate about Western classical music meet regularly at the Cultural Center to rehearse. Yu, a Japanese native, is an English teacher. His fellow musicians, Yanfen, Cheng, and Kang, are among the few Chinese students who have remained in the wake of the Japanese invasion of their homeland. With nationalistic tensions between the two nations threatening to boil over, the students’ situation is precarious.
One day, their rehearsal is brutally interrupted by Japanese soldiers. In the skirmish, Yu’s violin is broken and the four men are arrested at gunpoint, accused of plotting on China’s behalf. Hiding in a wardrobe, Yu’s eleven-year-old son, Rei, watches in terror as his father is led away. It is the last time he will ever see him. But Rei’s escape is not luck. During the raid, Lieutenant Kurokami finds the boy yet chooses to let him go—and gives Rei his father’s broken instrument to remember him.
The event will change the course of Rei’s life. Music becomes a motif of his journey, as the story’s melancholic rhythms intensify and soften with each movement of his life. The broken violin he is determined to restore is a reminder of what he has lost, and what there is to be gained.
Set in a world ripped apart by war, Akira Mizubayashi’s delicate tale is a story of compassion that reminds us of the power of art and love to combat nationalistic fury, mend cultural and linguistic fracture, redress the loss of human dignity, and heal deep psychic wounds. In elegant, melodic prose, Fractured Soul is a parable of immense beauty and ferocious courage.
Translated from the French by Alison Anderson