‘Afternoon at the Bakery’ by Yoko Ogawa, translated by Stephen Snyder

I kept seeing love for Ogawa’s collection, Revenge, and now I know why. The opening story takes place on “a beautiful Sunday”, in a neat, clean, vanilla-scented bakery. A woman sits waiting to order two strawberry shortcakes for her six-year-old son’s birthday, as she does every year. In the tidy kitchen, a girl is crying, but the woman “could hear nothing, not a word, not a sound.” With a powerful sense of stillness and silence and inaction, this story is haunted by the tragedy, the truly terrible thing, at its heart. The stories in the collection are linked, each one touching on and enriching another to make a potent and spellbinding whole.

Originally published in Kamoku na shigai, Midara na tomurai, 1998. Published in English in Zoetrope: All Story, Winter 2011/2012. Collected in Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales, Picador, 2013

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