Thursday, January 01, 2009

Hardboiled & Hardluck - Banana Yoshimoto

Few years back, I have read "Kitchen" by Banana Yoshimoto. Happened to notice this short book in one of the local sales and have picked it up as she is considered one of the new faces of Japanese Literature.
Two short novellas compiled into a small book. Hardboiled, A 'ghost' story , where the nameless protagonist experiences the presence of her now deceased room mate and girlfriend, on her first death anniversary in her dreams, and a face to face interaction with a ghost in the ill fated hotel room on the same night. The narrator find herself walking on the mountain roads, where she realises the spot when she had dropped her girlfriend a year back, on her request, post her decision to move out of the common house to stay on her own. As she realises that this day is the death anniversary of her friend, the various events happening to her on that day , including her trip to the mountain roads and the local inn where she stays that night, gets clearer to her. The story ends after the eventful night where she goes through the nightmares and returns back. It is an interesting subject for a story, it did not appeal to me much at the end.

In hardluck , again the protagonist, coming to terms with her sisters medical conditions ( she is in coma with brain dead, life being extended with the supporting devices). Her sister has been engaged to a young man, who on knowing the current status, refuses to come and visit his fiancee in the hospital and leave the town to stay with his parents. However, his elder brother, takes interest in this case and visits the hospital regularly to the initial displeasure of the family of the sick person. Our lady, the protagonist, develop a stronger sense of companionship with the new man, while keeping guard to her sister in hospital in her last days as her family comes to terms with the eventuality of the death. As it happens in every disaster, there is an increased level of closeness among the survivors. Slightly better story compared to the first with certain emotional and relationship undertones.

In both the stories, the central character is a nameless young woman, who is coming to terms with the loss of something close to her. Both the stories are grim, of internal disarray and coping with the personal tragedies. Death is the common factor in both, in one she is trying to get over with loss of her close friend, while in the other she is trying to overcome the imminent death of her sister and confidante with the external support.

Reading two books might not give me the authority to judge her calibre as a writer. However, I should say, I have found them pretty ordinary.
Hardboiled & Hardluck

Banana Yoshimoto ( translated by Michael Emmerich )

148 pages

Purchased in a sale for Rs30 !
Read more: Interview with the translator

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