Translated by Stephen Snyder
Picador, New York , 2009
Borrowed from the library. My thanks go to Amanda for first introducing me to this book.
A gentle, quiet novel that explores love, memory and loss.
An unnamed Housekeeper is given a new client, a Professor of Mathematics who, through an accident, has lost his ability to remember things for more than 80 minutes. She has been hired by his strident and distant Sister-in-law and ordered to care for his home and prepare his meals.
The Professor remembers everything from before the accident but the present is a mystery. He tries to keep track of his life by attaching notes to his clothing. His love of mathematics is really the only thing that keeps him going. The relationship that grows between these two lonely people is a very fragile. It is strengthened by the feelings the Professor develops for the Housekeeper’s son, Root. Root and the Professor share a love of baseball and, they discover, a love of math.
He treated Root exactly as he treated prime numbers. For him , primes were the base upon which all natural numbers relied; and children were the foundation of everything worthwhile in the adult world. From page 130.
Ogawa used numbers and mathematical formulas as conversational tools. The math is like poetry and helps to build a delightful story from very simple ingredients. Snyder’s translation into English seems flawless and natural. I enjoyed this book, like an early spring morning filled with birdsong.
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