‘Blood and Water’ by Banana Yoshimoto

Delicacy is something I have come to appreciate more and more in fiction. Not necessarily delicate subjects, but a light authorial touch and I find myself returning again to Banana Yoshimoto. In much of Yoshimoto’s early fiction, love is given an unerringly positive place in the world she creates and has the power to offer both giver and receiver intense spiritual healing. In the case of ‘Blood and Water’ this power is literal, in the form of an amulet gifted to Chikako from Akira, but it is the gentle care he shows her which provides the greatest protection against her fear of loneliness. Yoshimoto’s work is often filled with the Japanese aesthetic of effervescence: objects perish or are lost, exchanging hands and living many different lives. Impermanence, Yoshimoto tells us, only sharpens our experiences, and love is no different. It’s loss is not to be feared, it is simply a gift to help us “forget, for a brief while, the sorrow that clings to life”. (HC)

Published in Lizard by Banana Yoshimoto, Faber and Faber, 1995

‘Moonlight Shadow’ by Banana Yoshimoto, translated by Megan Backus

Usually included with Banana Yoshimoto’s zesty debut novel Kitchen, Moonlight Shadow encapsulates much of what I so admire about her writing. Though she is emotionally unguarded, her cheerfulness is often tinged with stoicism and grief. In this story a young woman recovers from the death of her boyfriend and, as is typical in Banana Yoshimoto’s work, the supernatural and natural worlds open to each other to bridge the gap between what we feel and what we understand.  

A lover should die after a long lifetime. I lost Hitoshi at the age of twenty, and I suffered from it so much that I felt as if my own life had stopped. The night he died, my soul went away to some other place and I couldn’t bring it back. It was impossible to see the world as I had before. My brain ebbed and flowed, unstable, and I passed the days in a relentless state of dull oppression.

Published in Kitchen, Faber 1997