N.P. (Magill Book Reviews)
Sarao Takase, a famous contemporary Japanese who wrote in English, left as his last work a collection of ninety-seven short stories. When the ninety-eighth story surfaces, it sets events in motion that entangle the novel’s narrator, Kazami Kano, in a web of relationships from which she ultimately cannot escape. After Takase’s death, Kazami meets his son, Otohiko, and daughter, Saki, at a reception she attended with her much older lover, Shoji Toda, who was working on a translation of Takase’s ninety-eighth and supposedly final story. It recounts an older man’s love affair with a young woman; when he later discovers her to be his daughter, he kills himself.
N.P., which Takase meant to stand for “North Point,” explores the relationship between Takase and his daughter, Sui Minowa, as well as the emotional and sexual bonds linking Sui with her half-brother, Otohiko, as well as those involving Saki, Shoji, and Kazami. Kazami becomes an intermediary between the three siblings, including Sui’s half-sister, Otohiko’s sister, Saki. In addition to the sexual tension and attraction between Sui and Otohiko, there are incestuous and lesbian attractions that overwhelm the other characters in various combinations.
In the midst of these seductions is Kazami’s need to understand the suicide of her lover Shoji, whom readers later learn was also involved with Sui.
Yoshimoto’s novel is spare in detail, distant in emotion, yet compelling in its rendering of these young people’s desperation and urge toward self-destruction. N.P. slowly unravels their story, leaving the mystery resolved but the libidinal compulsions still on the verge of exploding.