Colourfull scale of human emotions, pathos, sweet and sour feeling of nostalgia, and astonishing beauty and joy of life.. These are only some of those things what my favorite Japanese novelist Banana Yoshimoto writes about. Though her books often describe quite dark things, her books are always filled with optimism and pure feeling of love. Her way to write is intelligent, fresh and fascinating.
Considering large amount of shortstories and novels written by her, I have only read few. The most famous novels of her are Kitchen, N.P, Lizard, Amrita and Asleep. She also wrote numerous shortstories including Second honeymoon. Banana Yoshimoto is rather active writer, but unfortunately only some of her stories are translated into english. During my visit in Japan, I found many of her, books I never saw translated in English. That's good reason to start to learn Japanese. ;)
Banana Yoshimoto was born in 1964. She lives in Tokyo and her books have been winning numerous prizes not only in Japan but also abroad. Just to mention, I have noticed that somehow, the atmosphere in her books is similar
"I would like to dedicate this book to the memory of the late Kurt Kobain. Without his music, I could never have written these stories. He is gone now, but his songs remain with us.
Until our next meeting... " Banana Yoshimoto, Lizard
to Mike Oldfield's songs. Moonlight Shadow was based on Mike Oldfield's "Moonlight shadow" published on album: "Crises". North Point (N.P), is also song of Oldfield.
Recently Yoshimoto has concentrated more to contemporary literature. Asleep is especially this kind of work which is somehow really fresh and mysterious. It's a bit like Brian Eno's contemporary music. Bizarre though still and crystal clear. Yoshimoto often refers slightly to lesbian relationships, at least I got this kind of feeling.
Latest book I've readed of her was Lizard. It was maybe the most powerful works of her, and I guess the most puzzling too. Especially the stories such Helix and the Lizard touched me. Their beautiful and always so mature characters gave me very transparent and beautiful feeling. The last of the stories "The Strange Tale from Down by the River" was really powerful and soaking with young and energetic newage attitude, though at the same time, outmost mature. Reading Lizard gave me a bit sad feeling, since I knew that I've been reading her all English translations. So I'm forced to start to learn Japanese. ;)
I'm glad to inform you that new translation of Banana Yoshimoto's "Goodbye Tsugumi" has been published in August 2002. The translator is again good old Michael Emmerich who did his wonderful work with Asleep.
Hardcover edition appeared in Amazon in beginning of August and now I'm waiting keenly for it to appear here in Finland. It's interesting how they group Banana Yoshimoto's books with Haruki Murakami in Amazon. Indeed they have somehow quite similar style.
I cannot say how delighted I heard about this new book. I'm sure it will be great as always! The cover looks rather new age, eh? :)
Kitchen consists three shortstories, Kitchen 1 & 2, and Moonlight shadow. It's wonderful and even though it's collected from three individual stories, it works very well as an integrated whole.
|"Whenever it had been like this before, I had set my teeth and stood up to it; but now, lacking the strength to go to the river, I could only suffer." -Moonlight shadow|
Kitchen 1 tells feelings of Mikage Sakurai, a lonely girl just reached adulthood. She misses her grandmother who passed away recently. She finds comfort and security from her own kitchen, and she even start to sleep there. After losing her granny she has to find herself a new apartment, the one where she lives is too big and expensive for only herself. Then suddenly, her friend from school comes to see her and ask her to come and live with his mother at least until she can find new apartment. So she moves there and meet Eriko, interesting person who's lifestory is also filled with grief and sadness..
Kitchen 2 continues from the first episode, but the theme is little a bit different. When Kitchen 1 was more focused on describing feelings of darkness and loneliness, missing someone who have passed away, Kitchen 2 is more hopefull. It's like a ray of light in dark, rainy sky. In the end, Yoshimoto developes the story to it's peak, giving happy feeling to the reader.
Moonlight shadow tells about the life of a girl, who lose her boyfriend in car accident. Her boyfriend's brother also lost his loved one, and both of them suffer. Moonlight shadow is somehow amazingly real. It's like a foggy, beautiful memory of someone who have passed away long time ago, who you desperately remember and want to meet again.
In Moonlight shadow, Yoshimoto's best gifts as a writer are set free. And she is able to grasp the moment, bringing out some amazingly beautiful and important thing of human life. Personally, I must say that I found something important about myself after I read Moonlight Shadow.
All three stories handle difficult topic, a sorrowful feeling of losing someone close. One of Yoshimoto's goals as a writer is to discover nostalgia, this extraordinary human feeling, and make interesting experiments with it.
I feel that her stories are not only wonderful journeys into human's psyche, but also good guide of finding oneself, and finding a beauty from daily life. Read more about Kitchen, the movie
|"Late at night the trees in my garden seemed to shine. Awash in light from the street, the quiet glittering green of the leaves and the deep brown of the trunk seemed startlingly vivid." -Love Songs|
Yoshimoto's later works, "Asleep", translated by Michael Emmerich, was something a bit different from her other works. She's been advanced as a writer and her new books are sophisticated and surrealistic. But still easy to understand. In contrast to her old style of writing, she don't describe things so straight, and she often talks through symbols.
Asleep is a collection of three shortstories. Since they all fit so well together, and they all have this same kind of sleepy atmosphere, it's almost like one long story.
It's very transparent, and still. Like a feeling what you feel when you've just woke up from a wonderful dream, and you want to continue sleeping. Somehow sad and nostalgic, feeling of lonelines is also one of the main themes of this beautiful work.
Night and Night's Travellers, Love Songs and Asleep, they all refer interesting way to sleeping and dreams. Asleep, a story of a woman who finds herself from a relationship with a man who's wife is in coma, ends this surrealistic but beautiful piece of art.
Check also: Hardboiled / Hard Luck
Yet Banana Yoshimoto writes in a world where falsehood reigns, where big lies don't get notices, and so the not entirely true going undetected really doesn't count for much by contrast, but it is still a point of pride when Washington Post claims that her characters are entirely uncontrived and always new, never stock written by formula, to lament that it is not entirely true, that a tone of self-congratulation latent in her early work has crept in more openly with maturity, even as her new translator warms to his responsibility. It is still possible to delude oneself that Yoshimoto is fighting the good fight and in the post-Lennon world that self-deception is very precious.