Monday, June 29, 2009

Book/Magazine Review: The Diving Pool: Three Novellas by Yoko Ogawa

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book/magazine reviews.

Tackling Yoko Ogawa's fiction presents itself with some interesting highlights. What stands out the most for me is that despite writing what is a realist text, Ogawa evokes some of the sensibilities we find in horror and speculative fiction. In all three novellas, Ogawa creates an illusory atmosphere and writes fiction that is actually quite disturbing. The latter isn't accomplished heavy-handed though, and in fact part of the strength of Ogawa is that she narrates the character's actions as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

Like most translated Japanese novels, there's a spareness in the text but translator Stephen Snyder manages to utilize concrete words and preserve the lyrical nature of Ogawa's prose--which in my opinion is essential as the author constantly juxtaposes beauty and cruelty, juggling them as if they were opposite sides of a coin.

What's also amazing with Ogawa is how she makes us sympathize with her protagonist, even as we explore the darker side of the human condition. As I said before, the author to a certain point downplays this part in the sense that it's not the dramatic point of the story, but it is a tension that's constant in all three novellas. This balancing act, and that of convincing the reader to remain faithful to the protagonist, is proof of the author's talent.

The literary reader in me highly recommends The Diving Pool: Three Novellas. It's short, concise, and delivers three distinct narratives that will haunt and leave an impression.

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