Patient X: The Case-Book of Ryunosuke Akutagawa by David Peace
David Peace has always been a novelist who “defies expectations”, said Ian Sansom in The Guardian. His latest work deals with Japan – where Peace has lived for much of his life – in an “entirely unexpected way”. Patient X is a novel composed of 12 stories, which retell incidents from the life and work of the writer Ryunosuke Akutagawa, often dubbed “the father of the Japanese short story”. It is narrated in Peace’s “trademark fragmented, incantatory style”, and this proves well suited to depicting Akutagawa’s life, which ended with his suicide, aged just 35, in 1927. As a portrait of a “tormented genius”, this is a “profoundly revealing” work.
But it’s “not an easy read”, said Melissa Katsoulis in The Times. The stories are full of “babbling repetition” and feature “magical demons rubbing shoulders” with real people. Peace’s love for his subject comes across clearly, and he’s “fantastically adept” at describing the physical world. Yet for the most part, this is a “confusing jumble of madness and history” that, rather than giving pleasure, will make your “head ache”.