The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto

The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto

“He was quiet in the way people are when they believe the world would get along just fine without them.”

For my second #JapanInJanuary read, I picked The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto. Translated from Japanese by Michael Emmerich, it tells an elusive love story of two people who bear the scars of their own in the past. The narrator, Chihiro, is a 30 years old mural painter in Tokyo. Her parents are never married cause her father’s family is against the match for her mother being a bar owner and her father a respected businessman.

Though she is loved by both parents since young, the separateness of her parents has a notable impact on her. The mixed feeling of shame and insignificant are always there so she leaves her hometown to start a new life where no one knows her past. However, she returns to visit her parents quite often. When her mother passes away, Chihiro is saddened but appears in relief that she doesn’t have to return to her hometown frequently.

She encounters with a young man named Nakajima in her neighbourhood. He’s a graduate student with intriguing characteristics. They become friends and soon ge starts to sleep over at her place but remains chaste. He hints that there were some traumatic experience in his childhood. Chihiro is curious but she doesn’t force him to reveal his past.

Slowly their relationship advance. When they visit to a lake in the countryside where a pair of Nakajima’s childhood friends live, Chihiro learns about his dark past. Both of them have scars of their own from their upbringings yet the relationship between these two seem reposeful somehow. It is quite a minimalist relationship. Despite their troubled past, they try to overcome them and hope to seek a beautiful future together.

The writer depicts a bizarre and raw yet intimate relationship between these two lovers so fittingly. The darkness of the story is fairly visible but I can sense the blackness of the core. And I love how she resembles the characters with the titular lake. It’s breathtaking. Yoshimoto’s epigrammatic storytelling and Emmerich’s brilliant translation diminish the oddness in the characters and bring the realness that is hard to tell through so many words. It is aptly beautiful and subtle. The story continues to stay with me for some times.

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