Books / Reviews | ESSENTIAL READING FOR JAPANOPHILES

Banana Yoshimoto sprinkles perversion and melodrama over ’90s Tokyo in ‘N.P.’

by Nicolas Gattig

Special To The Japan Times

This vintage Banana Yoshimoto novel from 1990 is the tale of four confused souls spending a magical summer in Tokyo. Airy and urbane, it follows three women and a guy as they each sit in cafes having rambling confessional conversations, feel lost looking at the deep blue sky and show up drunk at their lover’s house late at night to resume the rambling conversations. Ah, to be 20 and melodramatic!

N.P., by Banana Yoshimoto
194 pages
Washington Square Press, Fiction.

The story starts with a Japanese writer who kills himself after “N.P.,” a book of short stories written in English, is published. When the translator, Shoji, works on an ominous bonus story, he too chooses suicide, apparently haunted by the subject of incest.

Shoji’s much younger girlfriend, Kazami Kano, befriends the dead writer’s son and daughter, as well as the troubled bar hostess Sui, the writer’s other daughter, and lover. As Kazami spends time with the oddball trio the sweet leisure of summer dissipates and fear of a suicide pact looms.

“Deceptively simple” is a backhanded compliment — it is precisely Yoshimoto’s pared-down brushstrokes that serve her emotional truths here. She accepts her characters’ flaws, including the way damaged people can draw lovers into their darkness. Kazami sums up that “everything that had happened was shockingly beautiful, enough to drive you crazy.”

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