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Manazuru by Hiromi Kawakami
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Manazuru (2006)

by Hiromi Kawakami

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Kawakami's first novel to be translated into English is something of a feint. An almost catatonically narrated novel that belies the narrator's profound, endlessly bleak attitude towards life.

She (unnamed) has lost a husband, mysteriously, some ten years ago. He has disappeared; nobody can find him, and nobody is looking for him anymore. She lives with her mother and her teenaged daughter in a small house, and is conducting an affair with a tender but distant married man. All her relationships seems stuck in a sort of neutral gear, her existence is moorless, almost ghost-like. And indeed, she does start to see ghosts. First a snarky woman who she begins a rapport with. And then: what she has wanted all along, she begins to see the ghost of her husband. The ghosts seem to appear most vividly in the desolate out-of-season resort town of Manazuru.

I found the novel to be alternately appealing and deadening. Nothing much happens externally - though the narrator does affect a pretty profound change internally. Ultimately though, it's power lies in its quietness, I think, in it's deadness. Fans of Yoko Ogawa or Banana Yoshimoto (like me!) would probably find a lot to like here. It's more distant than their work though, more aloof and mysterious. ( )
1 vote kougogo | Dec 27, 2010 |
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"Twelve years have passed since Kei's husband, Rei, disappeared and she was left alone with her three-year-old daughter. Her new relationship with a married man--the antithesis of Rei--has brought her life to a numbing stasis, and her relationships with her mother and daughter have spilled into routine, day after day. Kei begins making repeated trips to the seaside town of Manazuru, a place that jogs her memory to a moment in time she can never quite locate. Her time there by the water encompasses years of unsteady footing and a developing urgency to find "something." Through a poetic style embracing the surreal and grotesque, a quiet tenderness emerges from these dark moments. "Manazuru" is a meditation on memory--a profound, precisely delineated exploration of the relationships between lovers and family members. Both startlingly restless and immaculately compact, "Manazuru" paints the portrait of a woman on the brink of her own memories and future"--Publisher description.… (more)

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