Book Review: Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

I’m not sure if it was all the attention on Haruki Murakami in the lead-up to the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Literature (which in the end went to the wonderful Canadian story-teller, Alice Munro, more about that later) but I’ve been on a bit of a Japanese roll recently.

As readers of Stillnotfussed would know, I loved Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami recently reviewed here, and Revenge, by Yoko Ogawa, turned out to be equally captivating although for very different reasons. While Strange Weather in Tokyo is a gentle, poignant love story, Revenge, lives up to its title in a variety of quirky, creepy and occasionally gory ways.

Revenge is a collection of eleven short stories that, though complete and enjoyable in their own right, are also subtly linked to each other creating a web of intrigue, loss and retribution.

Probably the most macabre is Sewing For The Heart about a professional bag maker who painstaking labours to create an container to protect the heart of a woman who was born with the organ outside her body. He cannot share her joy  when she finally finds a surgeon who can correct nature’s mistake and finds no need for his delicate creation any more. In Afternoon at the Bakery,  a woman waits seemingly endlessly to buy some cakes for the birthday of her young son who had been killed several years earlier in a domestic accident. And Lab the Museum of Torture reveals the exquisite beauty that can exist in causing pain.

Yogo Ogawa is one of the every expanding group of young female Japanese writers whose work is increasingly being translated and enjoyed overseas, although often only after a long delay. Revenge was first published in 1998 but it wasn’t until 2013 that this translation by Stephen Snyder was released. Her novel Hotel Iris was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize.



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