Monday, April 16, 2018

Banana Yoshimoto - Goodbye Tsugumi

Publisher: Grove Press
Author: Banana Yoshimoto
Translator: Micheal Immerich
Title: Goodbye Tsugumi

I had heard good things about Banana Yoshimoto's first novel Kitchen. It took me a long time to get hold of it. As the book was too expensive for me at the time, I scoured the net for a free ebook. I was not disappointed.

I have just started exploring Scribd. These days I like to check if the book is available on Scribd before I rush to buy it from other sites. I have noticed Scribd has a fair number of books by Asian authors. In fact, I was drawn to this app as it had books on which some K-series were based.  These are usually web novels in Korean and it is next to impossible to find them translated. Translators usually go for renowned works of fiction not pop art that feeds television series.  Yet there are some fans who translate these web-novels, bless their souls, and their compilations are on Scribd.

Back to Banana Yoshimoto, I wondered if she had written any books after Kitchen and checked in Scribd. Right enough, she has written several novels two of them, besides Kitchen, are on Scribd. I sent up thanks to the Book God who often sends me great books to read and dived right in.

Maria lives in Tokyo with her mother and father.  Whenever she faces hardships, she consoles herself by saying, 'This is not as bad as the things Tsugumi did.' To explain this phrase, she reminiscences about the time she spent in a little seaside village before she moved to Tokyo. Her mother was then mistress of a man who lived in Tokyo and was waiting for a messy divorce to finalize to legally claim his beloved and their daughter.

Maria's mother works at an Inn in the village which belongs to her sister and her husband. They have two daughters, Yoko and Tsugumi. Tsugumi, her youngest cousin is sickly.  She is not expected to last very long. Her illness has made her evil. She likes playing nasty pranks on everyone and speaks roughly with her sister and her cousin. Maria finds it hard to love Tsugumi, and finds it hard to hate her. They have developed a bond with each other despite the wayward behavior of Tsugumi. Most of the novel is about one summer that Maria spent with Tsugumi after she moved to Tokyo with her parents.

It is a coming of age novel. There is an undercurrent of imminent loss running through it, as Tsugumi is not expected to survive long. The loss is expected but has not happened yet as the three cousins live each day fiercely, savoring it.

The language is achingly beautiful, especially when it describes nature. What mars this beautiful prose is the colloquialisms used by the translator for the dialogue between the sisters - words like gonna, hey, wanna seem rather out of the place and made me grit my teeth. It is hard of course, to translate a book in another language faithfully, but I do wish the language had been neutral and not something an American Teenager may spew.

Yoshimoto's novels are quite short but intense. There are no extra add-ons and that enhances the focus on the subject.  I look forward to reading more offerings by the author. 

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