I have been avoiding writing posts for a while now, but I thought I might just do the occasional one to catch you all up on certain books I’ve been reading, and what better way to kick that off than to look at some of the Japanese literature I’ve encountered over the past couple of months? None, that’s what 😉
It is Chikako who is planning events from the background, constantly interfering with Kikuji, pushing women in his direction and then pulling them away from him. First, the young man falls for Mrs. Ota; then events conspire to bring Fumiko into his life. For an experienced reader of Japanese fiction, a happy ending is far from expected, and Kawabata doesn’t fail to satisfy (or disappoint!).
Autofiction, as the title suggests, is loosely based on Kanehara’s own life. In the first section of four, we meet Shin, a young, recently-married woman on her way back to Japan with her husband. He goes to the toilet, she has a panic attack, thinking he is having a good time in there with another woman, and that is how we find out that she is a bit of a… shall we say a nutter?
Of course, where there is stress and angst, there is usually a very good reason for it, and Shin is no exception. The reader follows her back in time, to when she was 18, 16 and 15, learning gradually what she has experienced and suffered though, and what exactly has made her so damaged. By the time we make it to the end, or perhaps the start, of the story, we understand, and sympathise, with her feelings a little more.
As mentioned above, I had my reservations about this book as I have heard a lot about writers such as Ryu Murakami and Natsuo Kirino (who don’t sound like my cup of tea), and Kanehara is often lumped in with them. However, I was pleasantly surprised by Autofiction. There are some graphic scenes, and some mind-boggling attitudes displayed (including a very blasé attitude towards an impending rape…), but on the whole the book is very well written, presenting Shin as a sympathetic character who has been toughened up by life’s trials and tribulations. The more we learn about her ordeals, the more we understand and condone her later erratic behaviour. If written in reverse (i.e. in chronological order), it would all make more sense, but the effect would definitely be spoiled 🙂
Autofiction is Kanehara’s second novel, and her first, Snakes and Earrings, won the prestigious Akutagawa Prize. It’s one that I may well end up buying one day…
All for now, but not for this topic – look out for another J-Lit round-up in a few days 🙂