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輓馬(ばんば)

Banba 1star

言わずと知れた、映画「雪に願うこと」の原作であるが、これまで私が読んできた競馬関連の小説の中では最高の作品である。私は映画を観る前に原作を読むと決めているのだが、あわただしくしているうちに、いつの間にか映画の劇場公開も終わってしまっていた。そこで、ようやく取れた今年の夏休みで読み始めたのだが、読み始めるや、まさに直線一気の末脚でラストまで読み終えてしまうほど面白かった。

事業に失敗し、借金取りに追われて、主人公(矢崎学)は輓曳(ばんえい)競馬の厩舎に逃げ込んで来るのだが、そこで出会った人々や馬たちとの交流が彼の凍てついた心を溶かし、遠ざけていた兄(東洋雄)との関係をも近づけることになる。この小説全体を貫く、氷点下の世界の“寒さ”と、人間そして馬が生きていることの“温かさ”が、実に見事に描かれている。

私の心に最も植えつけられたのは、物語の最後に、主人公の矢崎が人生に立ち向かう決意をして厩舎を出て行くシーンである。

「輓馬のレースってさ、人生そのものだと思わないか」 「何?」 「第一障害が二十歳、成人式さ。大人になるための試練なんだけど、後から考えると大したことはないよね。二十歳をすぎれば、今度は平坦路だ。突っ走る。夢中で走るよな。」 東洋雄は眉を寄せたまま矢崎をにらみつけていた。 矢崎が淡々と続ける。 「そして第二障害が男の厄年、数え四十二、満で四十一になる年だ。ちょうど今の俺の歳だな。」 「何が言いたいんだ?」 「おれにとって、今度の借金が第二障害だと思うんだよ。逃げるわけにはいかない。ここまで逃げてきたおれがいうのは何だけど、ここで逃げ出したら、一生逃げなきゃならなくなる。」 唐突に第二障害でのけぞったウンリュウの姿が脳裏によみがえった。 その後、ウンリュウはもがき、苦しみながらも障害を乗り越え、最後の平坦路を走り、結局は三着に入った。

輓馬のレースは人生そのものという比喩が、第一障害を越えて、夢中で突っ走っている私にズッシリとのしかかってきた。と同時に、いずれ私を待ち構える、最大の第二障害を絶対に乗り越えてやるという気持ちがムクムクっと湧いてきたのだ。また輓曳(ばんえい)競馬に勇気をもらいに行きたくなった。


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