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

Monday, April 5, 2010

"The Dormitory" by Yoko Ogawa

"The Dormitory" by Yoko Ogawa (in a collection of three novellas, The Diving Pool-1991, translated from Japanese by Stephen Snyder, 55 pages-Picador Publishing)

"The Dormitory" is the third novella by Yoko Ogawa I have blogged on.    Prior to this I read the title piece, "The Diving Pool" about a strange obsession of a young woman, then "Pregnancy Diary", a very odd work in a diary format about the pregnancy of the diary keeper's sister.   Both of these stories have a fey, near otherworldly feel to them.    I liked them both a lot.    I think the last story in the collection, "The Dormitory" is the best of the three.    

The narrator of "The Dormitory" is a woman, about age 28, living by herself in Tokyo.   Her engineer husband is working on a big long term project in Sweden and his wife is preparing to join him,  it seems.   We learn a lot about her day to day routine.   To me it seems she enjoys being alone and is in no rush to go to Sweden.   Sweden is to her a very far away very exotic place.    One of the themes of Ogawa's work seems to be about being alone-the sadness and the pleasures of being alone.   One day the soon to  start college male cousin of the narrator comes for a visit.   He will be going to the same college his cousin graduated from.   He asks her if she knows a good place he could live.   She suggests he live in the same private dormitory that she lived in during her college days.    She contacts the owner of the dorm to be sure he is still in business and has room for her cousin.   Yes he does but he advises her that things have some how changed in a \way that feels a bit sinister to the narrator though she cannot articulate it.   She advised her cousin that the two of them will go visit the dorm and tells him do not be shocked when you see the dorm owner has both legs and one arm amputated.   The dorm has for sure gone downhill in its appearance and looks a bit shabby.   It is nearly vacant compared to the old days.   I do not want to give away any more of the story.   It reads like the build up of an old fashioned horror story.   The personality of the narrator is a bit strange and quite interesting.

 The best known work of Yoko Ogawa (1932)    is The Professor and The Housekeeper which I hope to read soon.   

I am in the process of expanding my appreciation for the short story as a literary art form.   If any one has any suggestions as to "the world's best short stories" please leave a comment-

Mel u


Rebecca Chapman said...

Sounds really good - I will look out for books by this author. I have always wanted to read The Professor and The Housekeeper, but sometimes i think its better to read other books by an author in the lead up to reading the one that really appeals to you - it gets you into the feel of the author.

I love reading your reviews.

Harvee said...

You might like Kate Chopin (1859-1904), American writer from the south who wrote about women's issues and slavery. The Awakening and other short stories come to mind..

Suko said...

Sounds intriguing! Wonderful review. (Maybe read some classic short stories by Poe?)

JoV said...

I wrote a post about Diving pool last month, and I posed a question if someone can tell me what happen at the dormitory, because I wasn't sure. if you like to discuss, email me at