This story, and the collection it comes from, marks a contrast in style from Hiromi Kawakami’s later novels about romantic intimacy, such as Strange Weather in Tokyo (tr Alison Markin Powell). In this story she experiments with surrealism, creating dream-like settings where confusion and the threat of danger weigh on the text. This approach allows her to move into a more abstractly psychological style of writing reminiscent of Korean writer Bae Suah or Chinese writer Can Xue.
What was that itch on my back, I wondered. And then I realized: the night was nibbling into me.It wasn’t that late yet, still only dusk, but the darkness appeared to be collecting just above my shoulders. A particularly black clump of it had fastened onto my back, and a part of the area where it was touching me had been eaten away.
I wriggled and tried to shake it off, but the night clung fast.
First published in translation in Words Without Borders, July 2012, and available to read online here. Collected in Record of a Night Too Brief, Pushkin Press, 2017