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

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"Moonlight Shadow" by Banana Yoshimoto

Moonlight Shadow by Banana Yoshimoto ( 1988, 44pages, translated from Japanese by Megan Backus) is a beautiful story about loss, young love, and loneliness.   It is published as a companion piece along with her longer work Kitchen.  (It was her decision to publish the works together).

The central character of this short novella is a 20 year old woman.   She has just lost the first love of her life, Hitoshi.    They had four years together.

After all, we were still young, and who knows whether it would have been our last love?  We had over come many first hurdles together.   We came to know what it is to be tied to someone and we learned to judge for ourselves the weight of many kinds of events-from these things, one by one, we constructed our four years.   Now it is over, I can shout it out:  The Gods are assholes!-I loved Hitioshi-I loved Hitioshi more than life itself.
 Time goes on.   Our lead character meets the younger brother of Hitoshi, Hiiragi whose girl friend has recently died.   He wears the school dress of his deceased love as living memorial to her even though all in his family beg him not to do this.   I will not relay all that happens as I know a lot of people are going to one day read this story.   Much of the beauty of the work of Yoshimoto can be found in these closing lines of Moonlight Shadow:

One caravan has stopped, another starts up.   There are people I have yet to meet, others I'll never see again.   People who are gone before you know it, people who are just passing through.  Even as we exchange hellos, they seem to grow transparent.  I must keep living with the flowing river before my eyes.

Of the four works of Yoshimoto's I have read, this story seems to most directly express the themes of Yoshimoto. 

One thing I really liked in this book were the closing remarks in which Yoshimoto (I really feel it would be ok to call her "Banana") does the normal thanking of her publisher and her father (a well known Japanese academic).   What touched me was the thanks she gave to the other women who worked as waitresses with her as she wrote this story and Kitchen.   She thanks her boss at the restaurant for giving her some freedom to write on the job when work with slow.   To me the works of  Banana  Yoshimoto are like a funny gentle friend that is far wiser than you might first guess.     I have her on my read everything they have written list (in reality all that is translated into English) along with Kenzaburo Oe and Junichiro Tanizaki.

A link to all of my posts on Japanese Literature is here

Mel u


Suko said...

Your post reminds me that I also read this after Kitchen. Mel, you describe her work quite well: "To me the works of Banana Yoshimoto are like a funny gentle friend that is far wiser than you might first guess." There's depth and intelligence beyond the deceptively simple prose.

Book Dilettante said...

Have not read Yoshimoto as yet thought I planned to and will in 2010! Her work here seems so sad and so serious even though set in modern times. How does the mood of her books compare with the old classic writers such as the author of "Beauty and Sadness"?

ds said...

Mel you have done it again! Banana Yoshimoto is going on the list. I love both the humor ("the gods are assholes") and the beauty ("I must keep living with the flowing river before my eyes") of the passages you quoted. Thank you.