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NP by Banana Yoshimoto


by Banana Yoshimoto & translated by Michael Emmerich

Pub Date: March 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-8021-1545-4
Publisher: Grove

 Japan's leading pop novelist follows her successful debut (Kitchen, 1993) with an ambitious novel of darker themes--incest, suicide, and the supernatural--that recalls more classic Japanese fiction. The narrator, a twentysomething translator named Kazami, was once the lover of the famous translator Shoji, who committed suicide shortly after completing his translation of the 98th story by the author of NP--the title of the volume of 97 short stories written by a middle-aged Japanese writer, Sarao Takase, who also committed suicide shortly after writing the 98th story. Since another translator of this story has also committed suicide, the story--about a father who abandons his family, leads a wild life, then seduces a woman who turns out to be his daughter--has acquired an understandably sinister reputation. Yoshimoto's novel begins as Kazami, troubled by mysterious intimations of danger and still mourning her dead love, meets up with Saki and Otochiko, adult children of NP's author. The three, who have much in common, including unhappy childhoods, become friends, and Saki and Kazami grow especially close. But then Kazami has a startling encounter with the enigmatic but very attractive Sui. Sui is also a daughter of NP's author--as well as the former mistress of translator Shoji- -and the real-life inspiration for the 98th story. Currently the lover of half-brother Otochiko, she is guilt-ridden and grieving to the point that she and Otochiko frequently discuss the possibility of a ``love suicide.'' But as the summer progresses, the four find ways--some dramatic, some banal--of expiating their feelings for the past and one another; and Kazami, a real survivor, now appreciates that ``everything that had happened was shockingly beautiful, enough to make you crazy.'' A contemporary, hip treatment of a potentially lurid plot makes for a read that nonetheless resonates with echoes of the past. Offbeat but sound. (First printing of 50,000)