I finished reading a book today, a novel written by a contemporary Japanese writer, Hiromi Kawakami. She has recently joined the list of my favourite writers and she managed this performance after my reading only one of her printed works, Manazuru.
The one that has kept me up last night, all emotional, hopeful and connected to the spirit of the story is entitled Strange Weather in Tokyo. I became interested in the story after the very couple of pages and the manner of her writing is just as lovely, captivating and lyrical as ever. H. Kawakami manages to bring together the features and style of an era which seems to have become extinct but which captivates us all and the modern world, with its noisy, lonely beings.
The main character, Tsukiko, is precisely what could be any one of us – a girl who is actually not properly integrated in the society where she moves around, she is hardly a lady, lacking etiquette femininity, but being as girly as humanly possible deep down. She seems to me the epitome of the women who now have careers, run about to make ends meet, but actually feel relaxed in sneakers and fancy not the extravagant, flashy guys that cross their paths, but the more calm, well-mannered and reserved ones. She has no trouble accepting her own limits and she is frank about herself. She is the average woman in her thirties, not married and failing to behave as expected when outside of her comfort area.
The story is partly intriguing, as certain questions shall remain unanswered, but it is sweet in essence and … who can dislike a well-written love story?!
The fact that I appreciate most about the novel is the fact that there are no useless details. Whatever is irrelevant to the story and characters themselves is simply not included. No years mentioned, no political regime, no street names.. It is easy to follow for people who are not familiar with the Japanese customs and peculiarities and it does not profess lectures on life, although it often holds a meditative, sentimental tone. It is perfect in every way and.. I recommend it to everyone who wants to place remarkable distance between themselves and Hollywood / European scenarios.
Here are a few quotes that I cannot refrain from sharing with my readers:
…time had been evenly distributed for Kojime, and both his body and mind had developed proportionately.
I, on the other hand, still might not be considered a proper adult. I had been very grown-up when I was in primary school. But as I continued through secondary school, I in fact became less grown-up. And then as the years passed, I turned into quite a childlike person. I suppose I just wasn’t able to ally myself with time.
…on the phone, silence yawned like a void.
As if there were an invisible wall between us. It might seem flexible and blurred, but when compressed it could withstand anything, nothing could get through. A wall made of air.
That was quite a discovery for me, the fact that arbitrary kindness makes me uncomfortable, but that being treated fairly feels good.
Those nights, I open Sensei’s briefcase and peer inside. The blank empty space unfolds, containing nothing. It holds nothing more than an expanse of desolate absence.