Monday, 9 January 2012
The Lake/Mizuumi, originally published by Foil Tokyo, back in 2005 was published recently by Melville House in a translation by Yoshimoto's mainstay translator Michael Emmerich, the novel has been longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize, the shortlist of which will be announced imminently. Yoshimoto's characters speak in a lucid and simple language which effortlessly catch the complexities of the heart. The novel's central characters both have in common the fact that their mothers have passed away, the first part of the novel is taken up mainly with the novel's main narrator, Chihiro, reflecting on the idiosyncrasies of her mother and father, Nakajima, the enigmatic young man who becomes the object of her affection is seen by her in the window of the apartment block opposite hers. As Chihiro gets to know more about Nakajima slowly the details of his troubled passed are revealed, Chihiro's narrative is full of passages of her rationalising her thoughts about her feelings for him and about her observations of his behaviour, she at times considers him to be suicidal, his aversion to having sex with her makes her suspect that he could be gay, but at the same time her rationalising is punctuated with moments where she catches herself being overawed by her feelings for him, in simple things about him, the way he stands.
A sideline story that flows along whilst Chihiro slowly unlocks the enigma of Nakajima is that Chihiro has been employed to paint a mural for a school under threat of closure, the two threads of the story begin to subtly entwine as the novel progresses. Although there is a lot of crying in the novel the prose never seems to read as being over wrought, the characters in many of Yoshimoto's novels always have the ability to give free reign to their emotions, whilst also in-habiting worlds which they appear to be experiencing either for the first or last time, which imbues her prose with a freshening aspect, an example is when Chihiro and Nakajima walk back from their visit to Nakajima's friends, the brother and sister, Mino and Chii, who live in their makeshift house by the lake in the forest, Chihiro asumes that she'll never relive the experience. Chii is bed bound and speaks to Nakajima and Chihiro through Mino in a way which hints that they posses a telepathic connection, the pair exhibit a supernatural aura, they live an ethereal life, beyond the peripheries of society, out in the countryside, at a point Chihiro considers that they could have been a figment, and when she returns to them she is taken aback by their actuality, Mino explains to her that he rarely needs to venture back out into town.
Seeing a picture on the wall in Mino and Chii's house offers the clue for Chihiro to realize the enigma of Nakajima that has been up to now beyond him being able to rationalize and relate to her. Through Chihiro's narration Yoshimoto's prose conveys a sense of the emotional journey that Chihiro and Nakajima have taken through the course of the novel, which is a common motif in Yoshimoto's narratives, finishing her novels always leaves me with an affinity for her characters and their plight, theres always a lucid sense of a before and after and a re-evaluation between these two places, also an impression of coming full circle with her characters. Yoshimoto's use of an ellipsis finds a perfect vehicle in Nakajima's repressed trauma, almost passing undetected, The Lake has been unsurprisingly a much blogged about book so there's little need to divulge anymore of the plot, only to add that to read it I feel again a certain reaffirmation.