Summer is here, which means the air conditioner is now permanently on, we're all taking four showers a day and wondering why we don't all just move to Hokkaido. It also means we're halfway through the year and ready to take a look at what treats J-Lit has in store for us in the scorching months ahead.
Reiwa brings with it not one but two new translations of writer-of-the-moment Hiromi Kawakami, both by Allison Markin Powell. "The Ten Loves of Nishino" (Europa Editions, out now) is a humorous short novel told through the voices of 10 women who have loved the titular Nishino. Following that, remember, remember the fifth of November, as that's when "Parade: A Folktale" (Soft Skull Press) hits the shops. Kawakami has inherited the cursed label "quirky," a mantle that gets passed from one Japanese woman novelist to another by lazy reviewers, but here she goes full pelt into fantasy, leaving quirky some ways behind with a tale in which folklore and modernity collide.
Modernity is the stuff of Hiroko Oyamada's fiction, and her first book translated into English, "The Factory" (translated by David Boyd, New Directions Publishing), comes out in October. Names like Kafka are being dropped in press releases, and this story of three workers losing their grasp on reality in the unreality of late-stage capitalism certainly promises to be one of the literary highlights of 2019.