1942. At the turning point of the war, the Imperial Japanese Army is in retreat. On Papua New Guinea, the unnamed narrator of Finger Bone is wounded in the fighting and sent to a field hospital to recover. There, he befriends other injured men only to watch them die one by one from their wounds, hunger, and disease. When a soldier dies, instead of a returning the body to Japan, a medic cuts off the corpse’s index finger, burns away the flesh, and prepares the remaining bone to be sent back to the soldier’s family. The narrator carries the finger bone of his friend in an aluminum tin with the promise he will return the bone to his comrade’s young son.
Finger Bone is the prize-winning debut by famed Japanese author Hiroki Takahashi. The novel explores the self-consuming nature of imperialism, the ingloriousness of war, and how we are all identical in death.