Title: Revenge (original title: 寡黙な死骸 みだらな弔い)
Writer: Yoko Ogawa (tr. by Stephen Snyder)
Publishing House: Vintage
Date of Publication: January 2nd 2014 (first published 1998)
Rating: 5 stars
‘’Why was everyone dying? They had all been so alive just yesterday.’’
Yoko Ogawa creates a dark wonder of sadness, loneliness and unsettling desires in Revenge, a collection of eleven seemingly disconnected stories. However, as is always the case with Ogawa’s work, nothing is as it seems and the tales are written in a ‘’ matryoshka’’ style. Each story is connected to the previous one via a characteristic feature. You will discover the clues as you go along the way, as pain, oblivion and death are standing by, watching you.
What makes Revenge stand out is the seamless way in which brief scenes of daily life, vivid and sharp and tender and melancholic are intertwined with the strange themes of the stories. Paragraphs like these invite you in Ogawa’s world.
‘’Families and tourists strolled through the square, enjoying the weekend. Squeaky sounds could be heard from a man off in the corner, who was twisting balloon animals. A circle of children watched him, entranced. Nearby, a woman sat on a bench knitting. Somewhere a horn sounded. A flock of pigeons burst into the air, and startled a baby who began to cry. The mother hurried over to gather the child in her arms.’’
‘’Where had it all come from? Outside, the world lay under a blanket of white, just as my uncle had said. The air was still, and large snowflakes drifted out of the night sky. The street was empty, and the car that had been lurking near the entrance had disappeared. I walked gingerly over the unmarked snow. When I turned to look back, the window was dark.’’
Afternoon in the Bakery: A woman buys a strawberry cake every year for her son’s birthday. But the boy died twelve years ago…
Fruit Juice: A young woman tries to reconcile with her estranged father, with the help of a classmate.
Old Mrs J: The haunting story of a writer and an old lady who is very fond of kiwis. And strangely-shaped carrots.
The Little Dustman: A man is stuck in the metro due to technical issues, as he tries to be on time for her step-mother’s funeral. A tale of family, tigers and Brahms.
Lab Coats: Two young women work in the morgue. Their job requires them to empty the pockets of the lab coats of the deceased.
Sewing for the Heart: A young woman has a strange order for a bag maker. She needs a special bag for her heart.
Welcome to the Museum of Torture: A young woman is fascinated by the Museum of Torture. Perhaps, too fascinated…
The Man Who Sold Braces: A young man reminiscences of his uncle, a strange man hiding a few dark secrets.
The Last Hour of the Bengal Tiger: The haunting tale of a dying tiger.
Tomatoes and the Full Moon: A moving story of a strange woman and bitter memories. And what is the link between the full moon and tomatoes?
Poison Plants: The saddest story in the collection. A woman who has been fighting a chronic illness befriends a young man who becomes her sole support. But will it last?
It’s Yoko Ogawa. Just read it.
‘’Everyone I know has died. My past is full of ghosts.’’