‘The Diving Pool’ by Yoko Ogawa, translated by Stephen Snyder

A short story is not a tableau or static image; by definition, it tells us a story. It goes somewhere. But because the short story is defined by its brevity, the most powerful stories often gravitate around a single, dominating image that gives the rest of the events their structure and meaning. Yoko Ogawa’s ‘The Diving Pool’ is a twisted and complex story about Aya, the only girl in a house of orphans who is not an orphan. It traces her relationship with her parents, the orphaned children they raise, and with the house—the Light House—in which they live.

At the same time, the story revolves around a single, recurring image: Aya sitting in the bleachers beside the local pool, watching her foster-brother Jun climb the ten-metre board and dive, again and again. Ogawa is a virtuosic writer, and not all of her fiction is so creepy or emotionally murky, but it is in stories like this, where the possibility of danger or imminent collapse is always present, where every turned page threatens new cruelty, that she really excels.

First published in Zoetrope 11.2, 2007. Collected in The Diving Pool, Picador, 2008