Friday, December 09, 2011


I read a quirky little book last night called "Kitchen" (152 pages) by Banana Yoshimoto translated from the Japanese by Megan Backus. The book consists of two novellas. From the cover:

"When Banana Yoshimoto's Kitchen was first published in Japan in 1988, 'Banana-mania' seized the country. Kitchen won two of Japan's most prestigious literary prizes, climbed its way to the top of the best-seller list, then remained there for over a year and sold millions of copies. With the appearance of the critically acclaimed Tugumi (1989) and NP (1991), the Japanese literary world realized that in Banana Yoshimoto it was confronted not with a passing fluke but with a full-fledged phenomenon: a young writer of great talent and great passion whose work has quickly earned a place among the best of twentieth-century Japanese literature.

Banana Yoshimoto's
Kitchen is an enchantingly original and deeply affecting book that juxtaposes two tales about mothers, transsexuality, kitchens, love, tragedy, and the terms they all come to in the minds of a pair of free-spirited young women in contemporary Japan. Told in a whimsical style that recalls the early Marguerite Duras, 'Kitchen' and its companion story, 'Moonlight Shadow,' are elegant tales whose seeming simplicity is the ruse of a masterful storyteller. They are the work of a very special new writer whose voice echoes in the mind and the soul."

Yoshimoto's two stories of loss and love are written perfectly in a very minimalistic way. She has a rare gift of encapsulating many emotions with a simple turn of phrase. I don't think there was much missed through the translations but there were a couple of times I was scratching my head at certain structures here and there; however, I'm not sure if this was really due to the translation or just a product of her quirky style of writing. Highly recommended for a quick and satisfying read with a few sad tones that ultimately end triumphantly. A nice and surprising find.

"One caravan has stopped, another starts up. There are people I have yet to meet, others I'll never see again. People who are gone before you know it, people who are just passing through. Even as we exchange hellos, they seem to grow transparent. I must keep living with the flowing river before my eyes."

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