Monday, November 24, 2008


I found out about this book by Banana Yoshimoto via the Japanese Literature 2 Challenge - thanks to all who reviewed it before me! It was very interesting to read something Japanese that wasn't by Murakami, who has such a specific style. Kitchen is in fact a bestseller in Japan and is regarded as a cult example of modern Japanese literature. Fascinating stuff.

My edition included not only Kitchen itself but also a novella called Moonlight Shadow. Although it dealt with the same themes, the second novella wasn't as inspiring to me as the first.

Kitchen has that title because of the main character's affinity to kitchen in general. They make Mikage feel comfortable - I loved the way Yoshimoto's writing (and Megan Backus' translation) really let us feel this. The words made me feel warm inside.

Mikage has to deal with many issues - grief, family, loss, love, transsexuality. The way she does so is beautiful. I know that can't literally be true, that it's the writing that makes it beautiful, but that's what I felt when I read. She loses her grandmother, gains some friends and then loses another person close to her, a mother-figure. So much to cope with and yet she manages and shows so much intelligence.

The way the author phrases emotions and deep thoughts is so emotive, so starkly simple and yet with so many sub-components. Here's a passage that really spoke to me:

Why is it that we have so little choice? We live like the lowliest worms. Always defeated - defeated we make dinner, we eat, we sleep. Everyone we love is dying. Still, to cease living is unacceptable.

There were many passages like this one - another (which I can't find) spoke about how ignoring death is like ignoring life since they are connected, part of one another. Beautiful sentiments.

I'm so glad I read this and hope you will try it!

Challenges: A-Z Challenge, Japanese Literature 2


Ana S. said...

This sounds so lovely. I really enjoyed her Goodbye Tsugumi so I can't wait to get to this one. Thanks for the review, and for sharing those beautiful passages.

Tasha said...

I read Kitchen some years ago, and I loved it. I recall it being beautiful and sad. Goodbye Tsugumi is also on my list.

joanna said...

Nymeth - I really think you'll like it. And I didn't know if she had any other good ones, so I guess Goodbye Tsugumi is going on my list.

Charley - it was really, really sad, but in kind of peaceful too. Beautiful writing. I wonder what the film is like!