Book Review: People from My Neighborhood

bookcover people from my neighborhood kawakami hiromi
The book contains 36 stories, “palm-of-the-hand stories”, so tiny they fit into a hand. Often compared to Kawabata Yasunari’s short story collection of 1971. Each story is about a person, an animal, a place in the neighborhood. Or it describes a phenomenon, a specialty, an occasion, or event that happened once in the neighborhood of the narrator.kawabata palm of the hand stories coverThe miniature stories are loosely tied together by a theme or a thought. Each can be read as a stand-alone short story with a punch line. Together they become a big picture of the neighborhood like in a hidden object game.

Some of the stories show elements of magical realism, others are narrated in simple language, and many are told like childhood memories. Things remain hidden in the dark or are presented as vague memories. Towards the second half of the book there are many surreal stories.

Kawakami Hiromi is a well-known author in Japan. Many of her books have been translated into English. Here are some examples:

The Briefcase
Manazuru
The Nakano Thrift Shop
Record of a Night too Brief
The Ten Loves of Nishino

With around 120 pages it is a small book, which can be read in one go. You begin to read and shortly after you are at the end.

First sentence: “A white cloth was lying at the foot of a zelkova tree.”

Last sentence: “I could have done without the strains of ‘White Butterfly Samba’ blaring from loudspeakers around the globe every morning and night, but as Kanae’s sister kept lecturing me, that was a small price to pay for world peace, so I held my tongue.”

It is more a literary poetic experiment. There is nothing more to say for me about the book. What have I just read? I have no idea but it was interesting and charming.

Reviewed Title
Kawakami Hiromi. People from my Neighborhood. Translated by Ted Goosen. Granta Books, 2020 (cover).