Ai no yume toka
[trans. Dreams of Love, Etc.]
Kōdansha (Kōdansha Bunko), 2016. 224 pp. ¥600. ISBN 978-4-06-293368-1.
Also published in: English
A temporary worker, a newlywed, a middle-aged woman whose husband has gone bankrupt . . . the seven stories in this collection present women seeking some kind of love in a range of environments. In the title story, a young wife with time on her hands muses, “You know, I always wonder what on earth that feeling is that you get when you buy macarons. You feel like you’re doing something irreducibly stupid, but at the same time so invigorated by it.”
The women do not necessarily primarily love their boyfriends, husbands, or families. Nor do they live in an easily understandable way or put all their effort into living. They love themselves above all, followed by the various kawaii things that fill each moment. What matters most is the kawaii their own affection is drawn to, and this is entirely different from the ersatz kawaii they concoct to target men and their money. However whimsical and kitsch the former may seem, it is the genuine thing, born from the emotions of flesh-and-blood women, concealing within it an urgent cry.
Kawakami has a formidable talent for prose, but perhaps at heart she is a poet. The sparks that fly forth whenever the emotions of women living in our age brush up against some facet of the world surrounding them are earnestly generated by each line of her work, leaving lingering arcs behind. (OM)
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