HARVILL SECKER £10 (164PP) £9 (FREE P&P) FROM 0870 079 8897
The Diving Pool, by Yoko Ogawa, trans. Stephen Snyder
Everyday horror in suburban Tokyo
Friday 08 August 2008
Take a 30-minute trip on one of Tokyo's commuter trains – a futsuu local or, if you're lucky, a kaisoku fast service – and you'll plunge into the world of The Diving Pool, a collection of three tales by prize-winning novelist Yoko Ogawa. These explorations of abnormal psychologies unfold against the most normal of settings: drab, suburban greater Tokyo. Written in her twenties, Ogawa's stories revolve around female narrators of a similar age (one is a schoolgirl). Her intuitive prose feels like an attempt at a distinctive feminine idiom.
The husband of the narrator of "Dormitory" sends her lists of tasks to complete before she joins him on his overseas posting. Items such as "renew your passport" baffle her, like "obscure philosophical terms". Masculine clarity has no place here. It is the irrational that comes naturally to Ogawa's women. The narrators of "The Diving Pool" and "Pregnancy Diary" commit atrocious deeds – tormenting a toddler, possibly poisoning a pregnant woman – as if by reflex, barely aware not only of the consequences, but almost of the act. Rarely have first-person narratives been so opaque. This may be one source of their power to disturb. Is it possible to be a monster, all unknowing?
By contrast, the setting is sketched with a light yet vivid touch. Ogawa's use of physical detail roots her evasive narratives. Alighting from one of those trains, the schoolgirl narrator of "The Diving Pool" walks down the shopping street – the shotengai, crammed with convenience stores – then passes "the park ... the company dormitory, and the deserted maternity clinic". Everything rings true, down to the abandoned clinic in a country with one of the world's lowest birth-rates.
The works chosen here are perhaps too similar in structure and conceit. But The Diving Pool is a welcome introduction to an author whose suggestive, unsettling storytelling speaks volumes by leaving things unsaid.
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 2 Dog thinks owner is drowning in lake, dives in and tries to pull him out
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Chilling drone footage captures Auschwitz ahead of 70th anniversary of liberation
- 5 Narendra Modi: Indian Prime Minister wears suit with pinstripes that spell his name to meet Barack Obama
Ed Sheeran texts Noel Gallagher to offer him tickets after that Wembley Stadium rant
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
Taylor Swift banned from Triple J Hottest 100: Fans react to epic #Tay4Hottest100 defeat
Mortdecai becomes Johnny Depp's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Last Tango in Halifax, review: Can we ever really move on from Kate?
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
Leaked documents show Ukip leaders approve NHS privatisation once it becomes more 'acceptable to the electorate'