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

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Tale of the House of Physics - A Short story by Yoko Ogawa - Translated by Ted Goossen

Home Page for The Japanese Literature Challenge 12 - #jlc12

A Very Illuminating Post on The House of Physics by A Bookish Way of Life

Works I Have So Far Read for The Japanese Literature Challenge 12

  1. “Insects” - a Short Story by Yuchi Seirai, a post Atomic Bomb work,2012
  2. The Great Passage by Shion Miura, 2011, a deeply moving work centered on the creation of a Japanese Language Dictionary 
  3. "The Whale That Fell in Love with a Submarine" A Short Story by  Akiyuki Nosaka- 2003- translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori - 2015
  4. “Bee Honey” - A Short Story by Banana Yoshimoto- 2000 - set in Argentina during the annual Mother’s March for Disappeared Children.
  5. Killing Commendatore: A Novel by Huruki Murakami- 2017
  6. The Master Key by Masako Togawa - 1962 - translated by Simon Grove
  7. "The Elephant and its Keeper" - A Short Story by Akiyuki Nasaka- 2003. translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemari
  8. The Emissary by Yoko Tawada - 2014 - translated by Margaret Mitsutani
  9. “The Prisoner of War and the Little Girl” - A Short Story by Akiyuki Nasaka- 2003. translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemari. I did not post on this story.
  10. “The Soldier and the Horse” - A Short Story by Akiyuki Nasaka- 2003. translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemari. I did not post on this story.

Yōko Ogawa is another great author I probably would have never discovered were it not for my participation in prior Japanese Literature Challenges.  I have posted upon two of her novels, The House Keeper and The Professor, probably her best known work, as well as  Hotel Iris.  Additionally I have read a few of her shorter fictions.  After reading the very insightful post on A Bookish Way of Life on a short story by Ogawa, “The House of Physics”, I was glad to find the work included in The  Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories.

As the story open the narrator, getting ready to retire from his thirty two year career at a publishing company is making a list of all the books he edited,some 135.  He reflects on his career.  He wonders how someone can write a beautiful book yet be a jerk.  He was never a big star editor, he tried to let his authors speak and stay out of their way.  The very first work on the list is The House of Physics, he cannot seem to recall who wrote the work.

He begins to think back to his childhood, seemingly a few years after the war, playing with his friends.   A mentally disturbed in her own world woman lives in the neighborhood, in an abandoned building that once housed The House of Physics.  No one knows anything about her life history, there are various speculations, but she is allowed to stay in the building.  In a very telling interlude, the boys find a dead weasel and give it a ceremonial burial.   

The boys, including the narrator begin to try to talk with the woman, who normally avoids all contact and conversation.  She tells them she was a novelist.  When they ask where her novels are, she tells them they were all destroyed in the war.  They just figure she is crazy.  One day he enters the building and finds her sick.  He discovered some written paged he cannot decipher.  She begins talking, tell a tell from an other universe.  

I do not wish to tell more of the plot.  Ogawa shows people are not always what they seem, how memories influx our consciousness.

This is a very good story. I look forward to reading more by Yoko Ogawa.

Mel u


Nadia said...

Loved your post. I'm so glad you enjoyed this short story :) Her writing is simply the best. She always manages to create such a strong story in such a short space of words. I love it. I can't wait for her new novel - The Memory Police. It comes out later this year and I have already pre-ordered it and am so looking forward to it :)

Buried In Print said...

I especially love short stories about writers, often commenting on how bookish folk observe the world and way we make sense of things (or, try to make sense of things)!