It is hard to make ennui engaging, and “The End of the Moment We Had,” a collection of short stories by Toshiki Okada, isn’t quite up to the task. The book comes with praise from Kenzaburo Oe, who says that it gives him hope for the future of Japanese literature. Too bad that sentiment is not reflected in Okada’s characters as they stumble through nameless malaise.

In the titular story, a young man and woman meet at a club on the eve of the Iraq War. Unable to say or feel anything about the event, they decamp to a love hotel, spending the next four days in a haze of anonymous sex. As they are “cutting the chord of time” in a room without clocks, they escape from the world into a Shibuya that feels like a foreign country.

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