Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

Eleven individual pieces that together create an exquisite whole.

The first page: " It was a beautiful Sunday. The sky was a cloudless dome of sunlight. Out on the square, leaves fluttered in a gentle breeze along the pavement. Everything seemed to glimmer with a faint luminescence: the roof of the ice-cream stand, the faucet on the drinking fountain, the eyes of the stray cat, even the base of the clock tower covered with pigeon droppings.
Families and tourists strolled through the square, enjoying the weekend. Squeaky sounds could be heard from a man off in the corner, who was twisting balloon animals. A circle of children watched him, entranced. Nearby, a woman sat on a bench, knitting. Somewhere a horn sounded. A flock of pigeons burst into the air, and startled a baby who began to cry. The mother hurried over to gather the child in her arms.
You could gaze at this perfect picture all day - an afternoon bathed in light and comfort - and perhaps never notice a single detail out of place, or missing."

but then as this first story ends...

" The bell in the clock tower began to ring. A flock of pigeons lifted into the sky. As the fifth chime sounded, a door beneath the clock opened and a little parade of figurines pirouetted out - a few soldiers, a chicken, and a skeleton...............and then, from the door, an angel appeared, beating her golden wings."

An interruption, jarring and discordant, a danse macabre disturbing the peace - this is the pattern of each of these eleven short stories.
Reading them is like sitting alone beside a quiet pond enjoying the peace yet knowing that beneath the calm surface dark undercurrents swirl and menacing shapes threaten to break the surface at any time.

The eleven short stories, which can be read alone, unite to create a novella. Each story follows on from the one before, linked through recurring images and motifs, while simultaneously introducing new characters and themes. Death walks in many guises and all of the characters, none of whom have a name, have to deal with grief, loss and loneliness. How they do this becomes increasingly bizarre but somehow always remains in the realms of possibility.

The deceptively simple prose is stunning - dark and incredibly beautiful. It ends as it began and I just wanted to start reading it all over again. There are phrases that haunt me - " I could only watch and wait until she ate through her sadness."
I do need to mention that if you like a linear narrative, strong plot, definite characters and a gift-wrapped ending then this is probably not the book for you.

I think it will be the book of the year for me. 
Love, love, loved it!

Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder

hosted by Aarti@BOOKLUST

Also linking to RIP IX 

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