I love Japanese fiction. The plots are morbid and strange things happen to people. In all my experience of reading Japanese fiction, I have not been disappointed even once and thank God for that. Japanese fiction has a charm of its own which of course I have written about earlier, however just reiterating it because of a wondrous book that I just finished reading titled, “Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales” by Yoko Ogawa.
I had read three of Ogawa’s books before reading Revenge; however nothing prepared me about what was coming my way. Revenge in the most extraordinary form of the word, is indeed a “different” book. It is full of macabre and intensity of emotions (which again to some extent are subtle) and most of all it is also about the human condition. Each story deals with either anguish or loss or loneliness which leads the characters to do and behave the way they do. There are times when as a reader I could not understand the intent of the characters, but I liked that as well. I liked the not knowing why sometimes and yet I wished I would know more about them and the book would not end in one hundred and sixty four pages.
The stories are dark and twisted, and yet interconnected in the most subtle manner. The reader can of course identify the connections (which he or she is meant to) and that is what also keeps you turning the pages. From a woman who wants to buy strawberry short cake for her dead son (this is established on the second page of the book, so it is not a spoiler) to the existence of a Bengal Tiger in a house, the stories will fascinate you at every page. That is the power of short-story telling according to me. There is only this much space the author has and he or she has to say it all and Ogawa does a brilliant job of handling space. She is one of the writers that show you how space can be used – just like Japanese minimalism and the Zen theory that can be applied to her word usage and beauty of expressions remaining intact at the same time. The atmosphere in the book, in every story is remarkable. The sentences do not run in to themselves and the prose is clean, almost like a well-cut diamond.
The stories are of loneliness, despair and terror. The protagonists are real and at the same time seem fantastical. At one point the stories do seem to be more than just tales of horror, but that is when the translation takes over beautifully and lets you know what the author actually wants to communicate. In that respect all credit also should be given to Stephen Snyder for translation and getting to readers, the writer’s emotion and intent. Revenge to me is a read that will be picked up again later in the year. It is delicious and scary, if you like your fiction that way.