Picking up Yoshimoto’s novel to read is like a quick bite. Like a Mars bar or a Snicker bar. It gets chewed on very quickly, you will probably like it and then you crave for the next one, but they will never fill you up or make you think about the last wonderful meal you had in Paris, candlelight, wine and the Eiffel tower in view.
Asleep contains 3 novellas, with Asleep being the last and the better one.
In Story 1, Shibami recalled her brother Yoshihiro who died in an accident, leaving behind an American lover, Sarah (who was an exchange students to Japan from the USA) and a short-lived romance with cousin Mari.
In Story 2, Fumi hears subtle singing and calling of woman which Fumi suspects might be a voice from Haru who died mysteriously. Both Fumi and Haru used to go out with the same man, who basically didn’t care much about both of them. Fumi’s boyfriend Mizuo suggested that Fumi should see a spiritual medium that will help her communicate with the dead and get in touch with Haru and found out what Haru wants from her.
In Story 3, Terako has a housemate Shiori who has the most bizarre job, getting paid lying next to a sleeping client. Terako is unemployed and always sleeping, but she could wake up instantly when she sensed that the phone ringing is her boyfriend, Mr Iwanaga. Mr Iwanaga is a married man, whose wife has been lying in coma for months but Mr Iwanaga couldn’t bring himself to leave his wife. So Terako is always waiting. Waiting for her boyfriend to be free, to call her out.
Yoshimoto’s books always have a similar theme. It is always about remembering a dead person or a woman that the female protagonists have a love-hate relationship with. In the case of story 2 and 3, the protagonists needed a jolt by strange encounters with another dead woman’s ghost or spirit to reflect on her life or turn into a new leaf. Sometimes traces of the person who died can be reincarnated or found in a little boy
Yoshimoto overlaps the real and the surreal, crossing over the 3rd dimension and coming back to the harsh reality of life, between sleep and dreams and waking up; between what is real and unreal.
The last novella struck a chord in me because I remembered when I was younger I take long naps and sleep at very long duration. I could sleep in a car, in a chair, in a sofa, in the middle of other people’s conversation, in the middle of a family celebration. It was incredible. For many year, like Terako, I was known within my family as sleepyhead. How different it is for me now. When I hear people say that they slept the whole day, it was a mix feeling of envy and disgust because I haven’t been able to do that for many years now. 😦
A novel about being young and lonely, lost love and friendship, pick this up if you just need a quick snack.
Paperback, [Faber & Faber 2001],[177 pages], [Japan in the 90’s], Library Loot, Finished reading at12th September 2010.
This sounds so Japanese: lonely, lost love, depressing, depressing, depressing! I would be interested to know if only the depressing books get translated and if there is more of a balance in Japanese society. Do you know?
@Jill, What about this one? Yasutaka Tsutsui “The Maid” – Nanase works as a maid to avoid revealing her ability to read people’s minds, but her psychic powers inevitably draw her into the lives of her employers, with dangerous and at times hilarious consequences. ? I’ll tell you how it is after I read it.
Next try Japanese Manga. 😉
I like Kitchen when I read it a few years ago ,keep saying I m going read another ,this sounds great ,all the best stu
I enjoy reading Banana Yoshimoto’s works-I have a copy of Asleep here with me and hope to get to it soon-I enjoyed your very perceptive take on her work-
Thank you for your kind words Mel. I hope you read Asleep soon and tell me what you think about it. 😉
Great you enjoyed Asleep, I liked it too. The stories were nice, not amazing, but I take a nice Yoshimoto over most other books anytime 🙂 And her writing is just droolworthy 🙂
I guess I’m still a sleepyhead, at least I seem to give this ipression. I usually sleep 8 hours, which I think is normal, but I go to bed late and get up late. If one isn’t up at 7, apparently that means one’s lazy 😉 Hope you get to have a lazy, sleepy day soon!
Thanks Bina! I hope I get a sleepy lazy day too! The virtue of getting up from bed early is overrated, those days are long gone with the disappearance of agricultural days in developed countries. My advice is just work and sleep on whatever hours of the day that allows you to perform at your peak! 😀