Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Translated from Japanese by Megan Backus

Grove Press, New York, 1993

Borrowed from the library.  This is my second book for the Japanese Literature Challenge 4.  Thanks to Bellezza for organizing this wonderful event.

Oh, what a book!  Kitchen is a combination of a novella and a short story.  Simply and beautifully written, they present emotions in a way that is direct and clear, never simpering or overly sweet.   Both tell of loss, love and family and I moved through then easily.  Sometimes the words felt like a  warm breeze, sometimes like a sudden shower.   Yoshimoto’s storytelling is magic, reading this book I did not expect the depth I found there.  So subtle, so simple, it all snuck up on me.

Kitchen is the story of Mikage, a young women who has lost most of her family.  She lives with her Grandmother, but is always aware of the possibility of loss.

The space that cannot be filled, no matter how cheerfully a child and an old person are living together – the deathly silence that, panting in the corner of the room, pushes its way in like a shutter.  I felt it very early, although no one told me about it. From page 21.

When her Grandmother dies she is invited by a friend to join him and his mother in their home.  These kind people help Mikage open herself to memories and emotions.

In the uncertain ebb and flow of time and emotions much of one’s life history is etched in the senses.  And things of no particular importance, or irreplaceable things, can suddenly resurface in a cafe one winter night.  From page 75.

Part of this novella are strangely chilling.  Maybe it is the shadows of Mikage’s past, like ghosts, that create this effect.

The second part of this little book is a short story, Moonlight Shadow, also about love and loss.  It reads like  a fairy tale.

In retrospect I realize that fate was a ladder on which, at the time, I could not afford to miss a single rung.  To skip out on even one scene would have meant never making it to the top, although it would have been by far the easier choice. What motivated me was probably that little light still left in my half-dead heart, glittering in the darkness.  Yet,without it, perhaps, I might have slept better. From page 127.

While reading this book I kept thinking of  the fall of cherry blossoms in Kurosawa’s Dreams. Kitchen is that beautiful.

Other reviews:

A Striped Armchair

Adventures in Reading

An Adventure In Reading

Regular Rumination

The Reading Life

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14 Comments

Filed under Fiction, Japanese Literature Challenge 4, New Authors 2010, Review

14 responses to “Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

  1. I’m so glad you loved this! The depth of this novella was totally unexpected for me, too. You’ve chosen beautiful quotes.

    • JoAnn – I really loved Kitchen. The more I think about it the deeper it gets. I’m not sure what Yoshimoto I should read next.

  2. I enjoyed this book very much too. I read it for a previous Japanese lit challenge and I’m doing the current one also. Funny that you mention Kurosawa’s Dreams, it’s one of my favourite films.
    I have read Hotel Iris**** by Yoko Ogawa, The Ghost Brush***** by Katherine Govier , and Silence***** by Shusaku Endo (very powerful) for the challenge so far and enjoyed them all.
    Thanks for reviewing Kitchen. I’d be interested to know which of her other works are good to read.

    • Sandra – I have Silence on my TBR list for the Japanese Literature Challenge but I had not heard of The Ghost Brush. Your brief description makes it sound really interesting. I’m not sure which Yoshimoto I should read next!

  3. Eva

    Yay! I’m delighted we felt the same way about this one. :) Of course, now I want to reread it, lol.

  4. I have had this book on my list almost since the day I started blogging. My library doesn’t carry it (?) and I haven’t made any efforts to get an interlibrary loan. But I guess I need to. There is nothing more breathtaking that a short story such as this.

  5. I read this over 20 years and remember liking it alot. I think I’ve forgotten most of it, but your post has made me want to go out and re-read it right now!

  6. I love the quotes. I’m adding this to my TBR list!

  7. Enjoyed this too! I recently also read Hardboiled and Hard Luck which is reminiscent of this particular book. She has two stories in there, too.

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