“Sémi” by Aki Shimazaki is highly worth reading. Though beautiful, the book is harsh. It is emotional but not happy. A wake-up call to every couple, and indeed to everyone in any relationship, it serves as a reminder of the value of communication and the strength to face problems.
It tells the story of a retired married couple. The wife (Fujiko) has Alzheimer’s disease, and the story begins when she completely forgets her husband (Tetsuo) and their life together.
Living together is not the same as being intimate. Intimacy cannot grow without implicitly settling specific questions. Do I know my nearest and dearest? What is the deepest part of our soul? How do I get there? Do I have the strength to go there? Do I have the courage to let others in?
Reaching such depth, or at least attempting to do so, is intimacy. A rooted awareness of another person extends beyond what you may believe you know, requiring a consistent will to pay attention. It also implies a brave willingness to let a few witness your vulnerabilities, uncertainties, and fears. Intimacy is a two-way uphill road, not a one-way downhill road.
Every individual is incomplete since we are in perpetual development or involution. Everyone is building themselves. We cannot take for granted what we once believed to be true. We must actively watch rather than just passively see. You and your partner might be changing or suffering in silence; let us be aware and respond properly.
The story makes you wonder, “What could have been?” “What if?” Aki Shimazaki shows us how quickly even the most grounded memories can be shattered by a single word. You start to ask yourself, “How firmly rooted was and, therefore, is my life?”
The entire narrative is framed by a question: “How lonely can a person be, even if she has been accompanied?”
However, “Semi” emphasizes that as long as you continue to live, new adventures and discoveries await you. Life can be difficult; everyone faces challenges, and how to handle them is up to everyone.
Through the characters, we can see how much time we have spent living inside ourselves and alone. How much time have we wasted? Nonetheless, the author takes us on a journey of encounter and discovery—the beautiful experience of gradually getting to know someone important in your life.
The book is filled with deep thoughts that inspire introspection and bring tears to your eyes. An ode to the place that memories, lonesomeness, and details play in every person’s life.
Shimazaki emphasizes the value of minor things that are usually overlooked and that we realize how dumb we were for disregarding them: “I can still see the sadness that flooded her face,” the author wrote. Likewise, daily events can brighten a life: “Suddenly, her eyes light up.”