Amrita

amrita.jpgIt is a little while since I posted on the blog. Pressure of work has meant that my opportunities for reading have been somewhat limited over the past couple of weeks – it happens from time to time – so I’m glad today to post something on Amrita, the third novel I’ve read by Banana Yoshimoto. It’s by far the longest of the novels I’ve read so far (her fiction seems more commonly to be characterised by its brevity) and is arguably the most lyrical. Certainly it is the most complex in terms of its narrative. Its themes will be familiar to those who have read Yoshimoto before, or indeed other Japanese writers too. The novel presents a world where reality and fantasy, the concrete and the spiritual, the actual and the imaginary, waking and dreaming, the mundane and the fantastical, certainty and unpredicability, all seems to rub shoulders with each other. The safe, reassuring world of the family looms large, but these are not conventional families and Yoshimoto’s fictional world is one that is peopled by unlikely, yet likeable characters. In Amrita Yoshimoto also plays free and loose with our sense of chronology, darting between past and present (and near past and distant past) almost at will, whilst leaving the reader to decipher the time frame of any particluar episode. Yet in the same way that all the opposites and contradictions are reconciled in a world that seems to have its own logic, the novel’s sense of its own narrative not only survives, but emerges strongly from this playfulness with chronology. This was, I found, a deeply satisfying read and further proof to me that contemporary Japan is producing some startlingly original literature.

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