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A Burden of Flowers


A Burden of Flowers

In this winner of Japan's Mainichi Prize for 2000, Natsuki Ikezawa
masterfully narrates a story based upon actual events from the
1980s. His astounding talent to compose sentences of rhythmic prose
makes A BURDEN OF FLOWERS a joy to read.

A young Japanese painter travels to the tropical paradise of Bali,
seeking inspiration for his art, but lands in an Indonesian jail on
charges of drug trafficking, an offense carrying a possible maximum
penalty of death.

In childhood, his talent just budding, Tetsuro was inspired when he
happened upon his sister toting a pot of blooming hibiscus. The
strain showing on her face from the effort and the curve of her
back from the load filled him with a desire to capture the beauty
of the composition. He stop-framed her while he sketched the lines,
later adding the color and perfecting the shading. His "Burden of
Flowers" brought him high acclaim. His real-life burden, however,
brought him and others great pain.

In his travels as a young man, he meets Inge, a mesmerizing heroin
pusher of erotic proportions. Lulled into thinking his creativity
will increase tenfold, and being more than a bit entranced with the
sensuous German, he succumbs to the temptation of the lady, and the
drug. But rather than bringing him a heightened sense of his art,
it leaves him addicted, confused and lethargic, and ultimately
finds him drawing fellow inmates in a foreign prison.

In Tetsuro's native country, there was an ancient belief that
sisters could watch over their brothers, protecting them with a
near magical aura. As if to prove the tenet, his little sister,
upon hearing of his plight, immediately rushes to his rescue. But
Kaoru carries her own burdens, this time more than flowers.

She enlists the aid of well-respected professionals to help save
her brother, but the odds are very much against them. In Bali, much
as in our country, the judicial system does not always work in the
ways it was meant to. While helping Kaoru understand the battle
they face in the Indonesian legal system, her closest advisor,
Professor Inagaki, cautions her, "Do not for a moment think that
the court exists to elicit the truth. The onus of the court is
settlement, not revelation. No matter what actually happened the
facts as recognized by the court are the facts." These words
bring a nation halfway around the globe very close to home and
serve to make the world a smaller but more familiar place.

As she fights for her brother's life, Kaoru searches for personal
direction. Spiritual, while at the same time denying prayer, she
seeks peace beyond the trial. After months spent in the courtroom
and out exploring her host country, she observes, "Bali has so many
gods, ask hard enough and one of them is bound to look in your
direction." The favor of the gods becomes her aim.

Told from the viewpoint of both Tetsuro and Kaoru, the reader
watches brother and sister grapple with their inner demons. In the
grip of heroin addiction, Tetsuro faces a moral as well as physical
burden from the choices he made, while Kaoru learns how to
influence her surroundings and those people in it by force of will.
Hard lessons of life are visited upon them both, and the results
are cathartic for everyone.

A story of corrupt police, exotic landscapes, and a struggle for
justice, A BURDEN OF FLOWERS is, above all, a journey of spiritual

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 24, 2011

A Burden of Flowers
by Natsuki Ikezawa

  • Publication Date: November 30, -0001
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 239 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha International (JPN)
  • ISBN-10: 4770026862
  • ISBN-13: 9784770026866