Nick Hornby (review date 8 January 1993)
SOURCE: "Mystical Mundane," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 4684, January 8, 1993, p. 18.
[In the following excerpt, Hornby contends that Yoshimoto blends prosaic and extraordinary elements in Kitchen, yet the desired effect of this fusion is unapparent in translation.]
Kitchen comes to us almost bent double with the weight of its success in its native country. Banana Yoshimoto's slim volume, which consists of the title novella and "Moonlight Shadow," a matching short story, has sold "millions" of copies in Japan, and won two prestigious literary prizes. Works like this always appear strangely attractive in translation, promising as they do the contradictory virtues of accessibility and exoticism.
The book is certainly exotic. Indeed, anyone who has been deterred by the self-conscious eccentricity of some recent Japanese writing (particularly the work of Haruki Murakami) might find themselves dispirited by the novella's dramatis personae alone: one of the central characters, Yuichi, lives with a mother who was formerly his father.
Yoshimoto's writing is much more understated than this isolated example of narrative flamboyance suggests. Her stories possess a clarity and simplicity that can seem lightweight. The reliance on mood and a kind of ingenuous directness means that the author is perilously dependent on her translator. "The endless sea...
(The entire section is 507 words.)