I’m back with another Lesser known Author post. Well, to clarify, Yoko Ogawa is known, extremely so in her native Japan and other parts of the world, however, I feel she deserves way more attention here in the U.S. Selfishly I am also hoping to put more people on to her work, so that more of it can be translated 🙂
Yoko Ogawa writes so deliciously simple you’ll think writing novels and stories is easy. I have to thank my lovely friend Cam for introducing me to her. I’ve always enjoyed Japanese literature. There is something about its minimalism that feels so clean and bare bones that it chips away at the tiny turmoils you hold inside you. Yoko Ogawa excels at doing this. To date, only four of her works have been translated to English, an oversight that needs to be rectified immediatly, because I needs more! Yoko Ogawa has won many awards in her native Japan and has published over twenty combined fiction and nonfiction works.
Yoko Ogawa like many of her counterparts is notoriously private, and interviews with her are rare. I am the type of person that rarely needs to know about an author’s private life,unless I really really love their work. It’s more that I want to know their process, how they came up with a concept, or a character. If I ever had one of those hypothetical “5 people I would invite to dinner” dinners, Yoko Ogawa would most certainly be on the list.
I enjoy starting with short story collections when I pick up an author I’m interested in. Although I didn’t start with The Diving Pool, when I recommend her, this is where I start. The Diving Pool is really three novellas that give you a sense of Yoko Ogawa’s writing and her subject matter. She writes about taboo subjects that may make you uncomfortable.
She likes to poke at the grotesque and the morbid which is evident in her short story collection Revenge, and her novel Hotel Iris. The stories in Revenge are Gothic in nature, and not nearly as brutal as the story collection’s title suggest. They are a series of linked tales of rare encounters, places, and objects in these people’s lives. I use creepy in the most complimentary way to describe this macabre collection.
Keeping with the dark and macabre theme, Hotel Iris is for those who enjoy dark love stories. Hotel Iris was my introduction to Ogawa, and while reading this tiny novel about a quite seaside town and a lonely girl, I knew I had struck gold. While I was impressed with the story, I fell for the writing. I felt the sea breeze as I turned the pages, I ached alongside with these characters, and my skin tingled at some of the most sensational moments in the novel. I was captivated and hooked on Ogawa’s work after.
Lastly, The House Keeper and the Professor is a far cry from all of the above mentioned work. It proves just how much of a talented author Yoko Ogawa is. Her range and style is incredible. This one left me an utter mess, in a good way. It’s lovely and innocent, and it makes you appreciate both what you have, and who you have in your life. It’s also a smart read, and if you like math (I do not) you’ll appreciate the tiny mathematical nuances interwoven into the novel.
I would love to know your thoughts if you have read Yoko Ogawa before, and if you decide to pick up her work, please come back and let me know what you thought.
Thank for reading!