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, August 7, 2017

"The Floating Forest" - A Short Story by Natsuo Kirino - the Author of Out, Grotesque and Real World. (Translated by Jonathan Lawless, 2011)

Japanese Literature Challenge - Year 11 - Hosted by Dolce Bellezza

Natsuo Kirino's novels are about the darker side of life in modern Tokyo.  Several years have passed since I read her Award Winning works, Out, Grotesque and Real World.  These works are classics, about those left out by prosperity of post war Japan, about violence, criminals, prostitution, corruption.  I highly recommend them all.  They focus largely on the response of women to these issues.

"The Floating Forest" has nothing at all in common with the world of her novels.  (It was first published in a very good anthology Digital Geishas and Talking Frogs: The Best of 21th Century Short Stories from Japan, edited by Helen  Mitsios).  The characters are affluent and cultured.

"The Floating Forest" is the story of the teenage daughter of a famous Japanese writer who years ago abandoned the girl and her mother to marry another woman.  She is being pressured by literary agents to write a memoir about her childhood.  The literary world is fascinated by her connection to the great writer, whom she has came to hate.  Nevertheless she cannot avoid seeing her resemblance to her father when she looks in the mirror, she knows what she sees as his "evil blood" flows through her. 

One of the common themes of post WW II Japanese literature is that of generational conflict.  We can see this strongly in "The Floating Forest".

From the author's webpage

NATSUO KIRINO, born in 1951in Kanazawa (Ishikawa Prefecture) was an active and spirited child brought up between her two brothers, one being six years older and the other five years younger than her. Kirino's father, being an architect, took the family to many cities, and Kirino spent her youth in Sendai, Sapporo, and finally settled in Tokyo when she was fourteen, which is where she has been residing since. Kirino showed glimpses of her talent as a writer in her early stages-- she was a child with great deal of curiosity, and also a child who could completely immerse herself in her own unique world of imagination.

After completing her law degree, Kirino worked in various fields before becoming a fictional writer; including scheduling and organizing films to be shown in a movie theater, and working as an editor and writer for a magazine publication. She got married to her present husband when she turned twenty-four, and began writing professionally, after giving birth to her daughter, at age thirty. However, it was not until Kirino was forty-one that she made her major debut. Since then, she has written thirteen full-length novels and three volumes of collective short stories, which are highly acclaimed for her intriguingly intelligent plot development and character portrayal, and her unique perspective of Japanese society after the collapse of the economic bubble.

Today, Kirino continues to enthusiastically write in a range of interesting genres. Her smash hit novel OUT (Kodansha, 1997) became the first work to be translated into English and other languages. OUT was also nominated for the 2004 MWA Edgar Allan Poe Award in the Best Novel Category, which made Kirino the first Japanese writer to be nominated for this major literary award. Her other works are now under way to be translated and published around the world. 

Mel u


Bellezza said...

It seems to me that Natsuo Kirino is so good at writing about conflict; you mention this interesting short story about generational conflict, and the themes of violence and prostitution and crime in her earlier works. I think you are spot on about saying the women in Out are reacting against this. I felt they were oppressed by men, at least in their point of view, and that is why they acted as they did. Anyway, all in all I find her writing and her ideas fascinating. Thank you for your wonderful review.

Mel u said...

Bellezza, Kirino has a number of yet untranslated novels so maybe we can read them one day. Thanks for your comment and your hard work hosting JPL 11