Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Moshi Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto

Forthcoming from Counterpoint Press, (many thanks to them for an arc), in a translation from Asa Yoneda is Banana Yoshimoto's Moshi Moshi which was originally published in Japan in 2010 as Moshi Moshi Shimokitazawa, and although quite a slim volume it's always a marvel how Yoshimoto can conjure up portraits that are both moving and engaging in such short space. Moshi Moshi is narrated by a young woman, Yoshie, whose father has recently committed suicide with a lover who by turns maybe a distant relative. After moving to Shimo-kitazawa, an area known for the diversity of it's eateries and shops, Yoshie finds her mother moves in to her small flat with her, after the loss of her husband she finds herself estranged from life as a 'Meguro madam'. Portions of the book bare similarities with Kawakami Hiromi's The Suitcase, as Yoshie works in nearby Les Liens, many scenes play out as she works at the restaurant,Yoshimoto's portrait of the characters of the lives of those working and living in the neighbourhood are vivid and there are descriptions of food and drink which may induce the reader to take pause and indulge. Reading as Yoshie and her mother look up and down the comings and goings from their apartment window of Chazawa-dori is evocative at all times.

At the center of the book is the mystery of the suicide of Yoshie's father and the woman who may have lead him to commit the act, and an additional flipside to the narrative is of Yoshie and her mother coming to terms with their loss. During this process they re-examine and re-address their relationship with one another and sift through family memories, all of this engagingly conveyed in Yoshimoto's simplistic, unassuming  prose which seems to offer new insights at each turn of the plot and each realization and renewed observation that Yoshie comes to understand. Through this plot of a suicide in the family Yoshimoto presents a subtle examination on the nature of self destruction and it's affect on those that are left behind in it's wake, but interestingly here it remains unclear how determined her father was in his actions, was he too a victim to another's desire for suicide?. Human fallibility is a theme that appears frequently in Yoshimoto's writing as it does here in it's subtle multi-layeredness which seems to surface in her characters as they encounter and open themselves up to each other before us.

As Yoshie pursues her thoughts and premonitions about her father's death it brings her into relationships with two men who had connections with him whilst he was alive which she hopes may give some insight into her father's motives or indeed to discover how much of a willing participant he was to his own death. Nestled into this narrative Yoshimoto adds a supernatural element, (another re-occurring aspect in her writing), with Yoshie's mother relating how she see's her father's ghost when she returns to the family home and of Yoshie's dream of the ringtone of her father's phone and of his wanting to contact her, what is it he wants to tell her?, all of these add impetus to Yoshie's pursuit for answers and some form of closure. In Moshi Moshi through it's jarring circumstance and the characters it involves we see Yoshimoto grappling the larger questions of what occurs when life derails and gives once again an affecting portrait of those left behind as they learn to pick up the pieces and carry on.

Moshi Moshi at Counterpoint Press

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