Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, November 13, 2009

"Hardboiled" by Banana Yoshimoto

Hardboiled  by Banana Yoshimoto (89 pages, 1999 translated by Michael Emmerich) is the third of her works  which I have  read.   It is a beautifully told story of a woman who goes to a mountain inn on the one year anniversary of her lover's death in a fire, the only female one among a number of males.   It is a story of a  half love brought on by the fear of loneliness.   It is a great ghost story.    Any fan of ghost stories knows a strange isolated inn can have some surprises

I'm a woman.   Once, just once, I went out with another woman,   She could see things that other people couldn't.  Maybe it rubbed off on me, or maybe being with her sharpened an instinct that I had always had, I don't know.

One of the themes in  the works of Yoshimoto is what loneliness and the fear of being alone can drive women to do.  The protagonist of Hardboiled, about thirty years old, never felt deeply for her former lover and seems to have developed her relationship with her more out of boredom than anything else.   When the relationship ends the narrator soon returns to her normal routine of life.   She had been raised by her mother, a beautiful woman who works in a bar.    The mother is depicted by the narrator as a good mother, a woman with many lovers but she keeps them away from her daughter.  

While at the inn, a woman comes in from the room next door.  She says she has just had a terrible fight with her prone to violence male lover and needs to stay in the narrator's room for a while.    She acts strangely so the narrator goes down stairs to get the manager.   The manager tells her that there are no other guests at the inn that night.    It seems a couple long ago had made a mutual suicide pact.   They brought enough pills to kill each of them.   The woman took much more than half the pills in order to spare the life of her lover.   Women in the inn have often spoken of being approached by a distraught woman.   The female manager of the inn is depicted at the start of the story by the narrator as being totally unattractive in looks and personality.   Events change the narrator's perceptions enough, or at least that is her excuse, that she ends up spending the night on the mat with the inn manager.   We get little or no sense of passion from the narrator, only the sense that she does what she does to avoid loneliness.  

This work is perhaps the most beautifully told of her works that I have read so far.   The production qualities of the book, published by Faber and Faber are very high.   Included in the same book is Hard Luck.    It appears that the two stories were originally published together.   Hard Luck is about a woman keeping vigil over her sister who is in a coma.   I will post on it soon also.   Some people see Banana Yoshimoto as kind of a "light weight" writer.  I do not.  Her works are short and the main characters are relatively young women.   She for sure is fun to read.    She evokes Buddhist  and Shinto themes in her stories.   She might not be the Japanese Dostoevsky but she is very smart, very knowing , she tells a great story and I have added her to  my read all they have written list along with Tanizaki and Oe.  I think I would start reading her works with Goodbye Tsugumi  and if you like than I think you would probably like any thing she has written.  

November Novella Challenge-a beautiful perfectly developed novella-this is my second work for this challenge-I committed to read one novella but may try for four, the second level.

The Japanese Literature Challenge 3-

Woman Unbound Challenge -I think there is a special kind of loneliness that women are prey to that men are not.   I know not every one or maybe most people will not agree with this but I think Yoshimoto sees it.   That is ok but Hardboiled shows us why a woman made the choices she did, what she did to avoid being alone.   Her mother was mostly alone also and we see the second generation effects of this.   

Mel u


Suko said...

I agree, Mel, Banana Yoshimoto is a talented and understated writer. I really enjoy reading her work (am currently in the middle of Lizard, a short story collection by this author). Her stories often have little surprises in them which are odd or unusual and always interesting.

JoAnn said...

I loved Kitchen (which I first heard about here, but have yet to review), and will put this on my list, too. Thank you for introducing me Banana Yoshimoto!

Paperback Reader said...

I love what you wrote about that special type of loneliness that women experience... I have wanted to read more Yoshimoto and this seems like a very good place to start to do so (I have only read Kitchen).

Anna said...

This sounds fascinating! I've been wanting to read something by this author, so I'll keep this one in mind.

Diary of an Eccentric

susan said...

Sounds interesting. I've had Kitchen on the shelf for a couple of years.