Book Review: Lizard by Yoshimoto Banana

liazrdLizard is a short story collection dedicated to the late Kurt Cobain by Banana Yoshimoto. She is a well-known Japanese author, with her roots in the pop-culture of the 90‘s and who writes her name in full hiragana:

よしもと ばなな.

What should one think of a person who calls herself a fruit? Maybe she is someone who does not take things so seriously? This is wrong!

On many pictures she looks sweet and well-behaved. Her books mostly appear nice and smooth on the first glance — But to think her stories are simple is anything but true.

In this small book you find six stories about „time, healing, karma, and fate“. Hope becomes a „transforming force“ (p. 175).

A newlywed Japanese is afraid of going home to his wife. He drank too much and on his way home he meets a homeless on the train. They talk to each other and in his imagination the other person suddenly changes into a beautiful woman. He confesses his feelings and fears of settling to the stranger. Eventually he is able to return to his house.

Lizard is a little tattoo of an autistic girl. This is also the title of a very emotional story of how she learns to know her boyfriend and opens up. It is told by the man, who is actually working as a therapist, not her’s- but has the right feeling and empathy for her needs. He himself is deeply wounded and has difficulties to get close to other people.

Helix becomes a metaphor of love. Whereas Dreaming of Kimchee explains how cabbage can be the ultimate bliss for a couple. Thoughts about transience and knowledge of being alone is the topic of Blood and Water.

A Strange Tale from Down by the River is the story of Akemi. Shortly before her wedding she remembers her affairs and wild love life. Her character is described as:
„You understand how to flow with time, and not get stuck in one place. Once you master one thing and have done it enough, you move on. Or at least you‘re good at pretending to move on. I think most people live their whole lives repeating the same patterns, again and again and again.“ (p. 150)

Yoshimoto’s stories are minutely observed and filled with lovely details. Many of her characters suffered from extreme experiences, but they try to overcome their difficulties. Spiritually inspired, they are able to see the magic in life again. Yoshimoto Banana writes as if her hand is guided by an angel, poetic, and her words are sometimes sparkling with joy.

Japanese: よしもと ばなな . 蜥蜴、1993.

7 thoughts on “Book Review: Lizard by Yoshimoto Banana

  1. It is interesting how Japanese stories and novels have evolved into those written by Yoshimoto Banana and Murakami Haruki. They are two ends of the spectrum, his very long and getting longer, hers very short. And both reflecting a very contemporary Japan with all its technological success.

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    • I like them both. Since the 90’s I have been reading Yoshimoto Banana and Murakami. It is really interesting how they developed as authors. Yoshimoto Banana wrote a lot of short stories, but also some long novels as well, for example Amrita.

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