‘A Guest’ by Yōko Tawada, translated by Susan Bernofsky

This story isn’t just about a fictional book (which would be thrilling enough) but a fictional book on tape and the voice that detaches from it to haunt the narrator. It also involves a mysterious neighbour who may be called Z, an anxious friend with a typewriter, and the occasional disintegration of language. I love the narrator’s summation of novels and short texts and recognise in it the bloody mindedness that keeps bringing me back to short stories:

How nice it would have been if the voice hadn’t belonged to a novel. I couldn’t understand why it had picked something so boring to attach itself to. Perhaps the voice found it satisfying not to have to live in a short text. Most readers don’t like to read short texts because they have so little time. They would rather go for a walk in a long novel and not have to change. The short texts would go for a walk inside their bodies, which they would find exhausting.

Published in Where Europe Begins, New Directions 2007

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