Monday, July 31, 2017

Tokyo Noir in 11 Dark Tales

I really enjoyed new-to-me author Yoko Ogawa's 'Diving Pool' (2008). Had to continue with another of her books in 'Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales' (1998).  小川洋子11の短編「寡黙な死骸 みだらな弔い」It was translated by Stephen Snyder in 2013. (Reviews here, here and here.)

It began with 'Afternoon at the Bakery'「洋菓子屋の午後」where a grieving mother carries on ordering her deceased son's favorite strawberry shortcake for his birthday, and her observations at the bakery of the shop girl who was upset about something over the phone. I didn't see a hint of 'dark tales' till the third story. Urban noir, perhaps, but not that dark or twisted till 'Old Mrs. J'「老婆 J」, where the old lady Mrs J went missing, or died, and the police were called, and eventually discovered a body, not hers, but of her husband whom she said went missing at sea. In reality, he had been strangled, with his hands missing and buried in the estate's vegetable patch.

The deliciously dark tales that followed were right up my alley. They're tenuously linked via characters who don't know one another, but would have passed by the other on a daily basis as strangers or neighbors. 'Sewing for the Heart'「心臓の仮縫い」is so sad and startling. Of a talented bag-maker who has been requested to make a special soft and sturdy bag for a woman client whose delicate human heart literally sits outside of her body. Then she found a doctor to operate on her to put her heart back into the chest where it should belong, and rejected the cream-colored seal-skin bag totally, although she would pay for it. The bag-maker, who's been a little obsessed with the woman and her external heart, is completely crushed. We learn of his plans for her, and receive confirmation of his deed in the next unrelated story 'Welcome to the Museum of Torture'「拷問博物館へようこそ」.

She'll take off her gown, and I'll fit it on her. 
"Are you satisfied, then?" she'll ask, eager to be rid of me. 
"Thank you," I'll say, but when I reach for the bag, I'll cut her heart away too. 
And then it will be mine alone. 
The bag is in my left pocket. I tried to fold it flat, but there's a little mound in my pants. I don't think anyone will notice. The shears in my right pocket prick my thigh as I wait.

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