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For most of us the notion of life in a tight-knit village is pure fantasy: We have lived our whole lives in and around cities. One would think, therefore, that we would have grown comfortable with the anonymity and the promiscuous mixing with strangers that define city life. Novels such as Hisaki Matsuura’s “Triangle” suggest, however, that cities, particularly those as multifarious as Tokyo, still make even seasoned urbanites nervous. Rich with possibility, cities are also rich with peril: They are places where anything can happen.

We might, for example, when walking through a city at dusk — “known as omagatoki, ‘the time of evil encounters'” — run into, as Matsuura’s protagonist does, a faintly antagonistic acquaintance who, wearing an undershirt and boxer shorts, appears to be waiting for us. Our encounter with this acquaintance might then propel us into a nightmare that will include a hidden garden containing a steamy conservatory in which a sinister philosopher/pornographer holds forth on the cyclical nature of time, and the machinations of this cracked aesthete may eventually lead us underground, to rivers that run deep under the metropolis. Reading “Triangle” we might, following Matsuura’s protagonist, enter a psycho-geographically informed version of city life, the darkness of which will remain unresolved at novel’s end.

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