The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa (2003, trans. by Stephen Snyder, 2009, 180 pages)
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa (1962-) is one of the most blogged about Japanese novels of the last year. Everyone loves this book. I have wanted to read it for a long time but have not been able to find it in any of the book stores I frequent here in Manila. I did find and post on her collection of three short novels, The Diving Pool about six weeks ago. I liked that so much I finally decided to order her most famous book from Amazon.com. Even with the high shipping charges, I am very glad I did.
There are many very good posts on this book. (Normally after I read a book I do a book blog search so I can benefit from the insights of others. If I know I will read a book I often wait until I have read it before I read other posts.) I will just keep my post here very brief.
The professor was once a famous mathematician but 25 years ago he got in a bad accident that damaged his brain. He now has only 80 minutes of short term memory and can remember nothing that happened earlier than 20 years ago. His sister in law hires a series of housekeepers to take care of him and everyday he has no memory of who they are. He has developed coping mechanisms for this problem such as putting notes on his clothes to explain things to himself. A new housekeeper is hired by sister in law and she and her son develop a special fondness and relationship with the professor. The professor becomes very attached to her ten year old son. I will tell no more of the plot but is very well done and I cared about everyone in the book, even the sister-in-law.
This book tells us a lot about how memory works. It goes into the beauty of mathematics. It shows us how relationships can develop even when there seems little hope of real human contact. The story is told in a very elegant fashion. I also learned a good bit about baseball in Japan. I liked this book a really lot and endorse it for all.
In the interest of full disclosure, the publisher has sent me a free copy of her latest book, Hotel Iris and I will post on it for the Japanese Literature 4 challenge starting soon.