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Belajar Menerima Kehilangan-Kehilangan

Adaptasi pada biasanya dilakukan ketika kita mesti berhadapan dengan situasi atau kondisi baru. Situasi atau kondisi baru ini dapat terjadi pada lingkup kecil maupun besar, mencakup sedikit atau banyak hal, termasuk hal-hal yang sepele maupun luar biasa. Adaptasi kerap kali sulit untuk dijalankan, lebih-lebih bila kondisi atau situasi berubah dengan sangat cepat dan takterduga, sedangkan orang-orang tidak siap, atau enggan, untuk ikut berubah. Meskipun begitu, mau tidak mau, orang-orang tetap harus belajar untuk menyesuaikan diri.

Saat ini tidak dapat dibantah lagi bahwa orang-orang mesti menyesuaikan diri dengan situasi dan kondisi di kala pandemi. Wabah menyebar di mana-mana, semua orang dapat tertular, belum ada obat yang bisa menyembuhkan, kematian yang takterhitung jumlahnya merupakan situasi yang mesti kita hadapi setahun belakangan ini. Satu akibat yang pasti adalah semua orang mengalami kehilangan: kehilangan pekerjaan, kehilangan penghasilan, kehilangan kesempatan untuk melakukan atau meraih apa pun yang seharusnya bisa andai tidak terdapat wabah, kehilangan hiburan dan kesenangan yang biasanya dapat dilakukan bersama-sama di luar rumah, kehilangan “ruang” karena tempat kita terbatas hanya di dalam kediaman, dan bahkan kehilangan kewarasan lantaran terlalu lama berada dalam batasan tersebut. Ini baru beberapa, karena masih ada banyak kehilangan-kehilangan lainnya yang menimpa semua orang.

Tentu saja, di saat seperti ini, kita harus menghadapi dan menyesuaikan diri dengan kehilangan-kehilangan ini. Akan tetapi, untuk dapat menghadapinya, pertama-tama kita harus (mau) menerimanya. Menerima kehilangan tidaklah mudah, apalagi jika kehilangan itu terjadi tidak disangka-sangka. Namun menerima kehilangan sangatlah penting, jika kita tidak ingin kemudian benar-benar kehilangan kewarasan―dalam artian yang sesungguhnya.

Kehilangan baru bisa diterima ketika kita sudah terbiasa, ketika kita sudah “tidak merasakan apa-apa lagi” di saat kehilangan menimpa kita kembali. Ini mungkin saja bila kehilangan terus berulang, atau bila kehilangan itu berlangsung untuk waktu yang lama. Kehilangan-kehilangan yang terjadi selama pandemi ini bisa merupakan salah satu atau keduanya. Maka tak pelak lagi, kita mau tidak mau (dan lama-kelamaan) terbiasa kehilangan satu, dua, atau banyak hal. Tanpa sadar, kita sudah terbiasa kehilangan “ruang” akibat batasan-batasan yang diterapkan pada lingkup kerja, belajar, hiburan, dan hidup kita secara luas. Kita sudah terbiasa kehilangan kesempatan, dan hanya bisa berusaha mencari kesempatan yang lainnya. Kita sudah terbiasa tak punya (karena kehilangan) pekerjaan, lantas melakukan berbagai cara agar bisa tetap makan. Bahkan, kita sudah terbiasa melihat orang-orang kehilangan nyawa, karena memang takterhitung jumlah mereka yang terkena wabah dan tak dapat diselamatkan.

Yoko Ogawa mengisahkan tentang kehilangan-kehilangan dengan begitu miris pada salah satu karyanya, Polisi Kenangan. Di suatu pulau tak bernama, kehilangan telah menjadi sesuatu yang lazim, sesuatu yang pasti, sedangkan para penghuninya hidup normal tanpa wabah yang merajalela. Begitu lazimnya, para penghuni pulau bahkan tahu kapan dan apa yang akan hilang berikutnya. Begitu terbiasanya, mereka dapat menerima begitu saja kehilangan-kehilangan yang terjadi, lantas mencari atau menjalani hal lain sebagai ganti. Lupa akan apa yang hilang adalah wajib. Kejam memang, ketika manusia dipaksa untuk melupakan apa yang telah lenyap dari hidup mereka, tanpa dapat menyisakan satu kenangan saja. Akan tetapi, (seringnya) hanya dengan melupakan apa yang pernah kita punya dan apa yang pernah ada di sekitar kitalah kita dapat menerima, dan kemudian menghadapi, kehilangan yang terjadi.

Pada novel Polisi Kenangan ada satu bagian yang sangat menarik, yang sedikit banyak bisa dikatakan relevan dengan kondisi hampir semua orang di tengah pandemi ini: ketika tokoh R harus menghindar dari pelacakan para Polisi Kenangan dan bersembunyi di rumah tokoh utama, tinggal di dalam ruangan yang sangat sempit tanpa bisa keluar barang sejenak. R kehilangan ruang sekaligus kebebasan, terkungkung di satu tempat dan juga tidak dapat bekerja. Meski ia satu-satunya penghuni pulau yang tidak kehilangan ingatan akan hal-hal yang sudah tak ada, ia telah “kehilangan rasa” lantaran terlalu lama berada di satu ruangan kecil yang terbatas untuknya. Ia mulai terbiasa dengan batasan-batasan ruang geraknya, mulai dapat menerima situasi yang menimpanya tanpa merasa terluka, seperti warga pulau lainnya. Pada akhirnya, toh ia juga “lupa” bahwa ia “terpenjara” karena harus menghindari sesuatu yang berbahaya. Sama halnya ketika sebagian besar orang (jika tidak bisa dikatakan semua) harus “terpenjara” di dalam rumah demi menghindari wabah yang mengancam.

Tidak bisa dikatakan bahwa baru sekarang saya mengalami kehilangan-kehilangan, tetapi kehilangan-kehilangan yang terjadi pada saya di kala pandemi ini terbilang lebih berat daripada sebelum-sebelumnya. Kehilangan pekerjaan dan kesempatan membuat saya harus berpikir keras bagaimana caranya agar dapat bertahan. Saya dan terus mencoba mencari peluang lain, dan terus-menerus gagal, hingga pada akhirnya saya terbiasa dengan kehilangan kesempatan. Kehilangan-kehilangan itu saya terima dengan tekad untuk mencari kesempatan lain, walau saya tahu peluang yang saya lihat belum tentu membuahkan hasil. Mungkin saya tidak akan melupakan kehilangan kesempatan yang masih terus saja saya alami, sebagaimana orang-orang dalam novel Polisi Kenangan, tetapi setidak-tidaknya saya sudah kebal karena terbiasa, sama seperti para penghuni pulau tak bernama yang telah terbiasa dengan kehilangan-kehilangan mereka.

Novel Polisi Kenangan terbit pertama kali pada bulan April 2020, tepat satu bulan setelah kita “resmi” memasuki masa pandemi. Selain relevansi yang saya rasakan dengan kisahnya (yang membantu saya melihat kehilangan saya sendiri dari sudut pandang yang lebih positif dan menerimanya tanpa merasa terluka), proses membacanya pun sesungguhnya merupakan bagian dari adaptasi atau penyesuaian diri. Saya tidak banyak membaca buku dalam bentuk digital dan biasanya lebih memilih membaca buku fisik. Jika tidak punya cukup uang untuk membeli, saya akan meminjam dari teman atau dari perpustakaan yang tidak jauh dari rumah saya. Tetapi situasi di saat pandemi membuat penerbit Gramedia Pustaka Utama memutuskan untuk tidak menerbitkannya dalam bentuk fisik kala itu, dan hanya mengeluarkannya dalam bentuk ebook yang bisa dibaca di aplikasi Gramedia Digital.

Di sisi penerbit, ini merupakan suatu bentuk adaptasi karena mereka harus kehilangan pasar buku fisik, mengingat toko buku-toko buku tutup dan banyak orang yang penghasilannya hilang atau berkurang sehingga tidak sanggup membeli buku fisik yang mahal. Melihat situasi mereka sendiri, para pembaca tentu akan beralih ke aplikasi tersebut lantaran biaya berlangganan yang dipungut lebih murah daripada harga satu eksemplar buku fisik. Di sisi saya sendiri, ini juga merupakan suatu bentuk adaptasi. Saya “terpaksa” membaca dalam format ebook di aplikasi Gramedia Digital karena biaya berlangganan yang lebih terjangkau dan buku tersebut hanya tersedia di sana.

Kehilangan, dalam situasi atau kondisi apa pun, sejatinya bukanlah sesuatu yang “luar biasa”. Kehilangan adalah sesuatu yang sangat biasa terjadi, entah kemudian kita dapat melupakannya atau tidak. Dan setelah mengalami kehilangan, kita akan―perlahan tapi pasti―berusaha menyesuaikan diri. Akan tetapi, di tengah pandemi yang kita alami sekarang ini, kehilangan terjadi begitu cepat dan tiba-tiba, dan mencakup hal-hal yang mendasar bagi kita, yang terlalu sulit untuk kita lepaskan apalagi lupakan begitu saja. Sayangnya, kita harus mau menerima kehilangan-kehilangan yang sulit ini, harus terbiasa dan menghadapinya dengan tenang serta pikiran terbuka, dan harus segera melupakan agar kita dapat cepat-cepat melangkah maju dan menyesuaikan diri dengan situasi atau kondisi yang baru.

Bagi saya, Polisi Kenangan bukan hanya sebuah karya distopia tentang orang-orang yang dipaksa untuk kehilangan kenangan, tetapi juga bagaimana orang-orang itu telah terbiasa dan akhirnya mau menerima kehilangan-kehilangan yang terjadi pada mereka. “Kehilangan kenangan”, dipaksa atau tidak, pada akhirnya membuat orang-orang dapat dengan mudah melangkah maju dan tidak diam di satu tempat kala suatu kehilangan menimpa. “Kehilangan kenangan”, mau tidak mau, membuat orang-orang terbiasa dengan tiadanya sesuatu yang biasanya ada dan mereka miliki, kemudian mencari cara untuk menyesuaikan diri.

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Revenge

It’s odd. It rings with mystery. And it’s palpably horrific. Revenge by Yōko Ogawa does not only present to us eleven dark tales, as it is stated on the second page of the book, but also something beyond any reader’s imagination. It’s not a collection of crime stories with bloody scenes of people dying at the hands of serial killers, nor of horror ones with ghosts flying here and there. Yet it has an air of creepiness and ability to keep us holding on tight to our guts throughout every piece. If anything, Revenge is a work of literary art which explores humans’ deepest minds and darkest hearts, something that will shock readers with what people could do beyond this life.

The short story collection contains eleven pieces of writing, all of which are dark and dreadful, in every sense of the word. Their dreadfulness comes in various forms: from a mother who never forgets to buy her dead little son a strawberry short-cake every year for his birthday, to an old landlady who grows carrots looking like a man’s hand, to a young woman with a heart growing outside her body, to a strange woman who claims to be a writer and accuses other people of stealing her works but, in fact, she doesn’t seem to write anything. But those are not all. In Fruit Juice, a teenage girl, who is apparently the illegitimate daughter of a prominent politician, tries to dampen her sadness by eating kiwis stored away in an abandoned post office to her heart’s content. She is a very quiet girl that when you ask her questions she will only say a word for the answer. She’s someone who keeps everything to herself, until, one day, after she meets her biological father, she cannot take it any longer and take it out on the kiwis she finds with her friend.

Jumping to Lab Coats, story number five on the list, we will meet a normal-looking secretary working at a university hospital, who is actually the secret lover of a doctor doing a residency there. But we will no longer think she is normal once the narrative unfolds the fact that she has murdered said doctor only for breaking his promise. What makes the story even scarier, though, is that her fellow secretary, upon knowing first hand about the murder, does not think that she is a cold-hearted killer. The fellow secretary keeps holding the idea that she is lovely and nice and flawless. However, that’s not the strangest story of all, if you ask me. Poison Plants, the last piece of the contents, tells the tale of a very old woman who seems to have interest in a young boy she is giving scholarship to. It doesn’t seem odd, of course, until the boy stops seeing her again and returns all of her money. That’s when she looks like she’s losing both her mind and sense of direction, wandering to a far away field beyond her home and finding her own dead body in a refrigerator.

As character-driven as it might seem, Revenge also has each of its peculiar ideas and their elaborations in the form of horrendous plots contributing to its twistedness. Yōko Ogawa has succeeded in handling them all with great care and precision. All the three components seem to work together under Ogawa’s firm command to trick the reader’s mind into believing that the stories they produce are something usual and that the world the characters inhabit is just the ordinary one we are living in, while, at the same time, they themselves are secretly not entities coming from this very world. It is their imposing effect they leave behind which then brings this realization to the reader right after they finish each story on the list, an effect where they will finally see that those stories are impossibly odd and hair-raising. Despite being stand-alone pieces, in addition, all of the short stories in Revenge appear to be intertwined to each other, becoming so by certain elements in the narratives which are hidden away from the reader’s eyes. If you’re not careful enough or you don’t have sharp enough sense you will miss them and wonder what possibly connect the eleven tales. The trick is so clever that I would call Ogawa a true genius in creating and presenting a work of art. The pace of every plot is also steadily maintained, readers won’t feel that one particular story is too long to read even if it really is a long one. And there is not so much as a hole in every plot, either. They are all whole and neat. And the best thing about all the stories in this collection is they are not only open-ended, but also open to any interpretation. Readers can interpret them any way they like because the meanings are not clear nor determined, but vague and broad. That’s what makes Revenge not a collection of horror stories, it’s something different, it’s afloat on the sea of our imagination.

I would undoubtedly call Revenge by Yōko Ogawa a great work of fiction, almost perfect even, if only it’s not too creepy to read at night. Really. All the components are very meticulously worked on: the ideas, the writing style, the language, the atmosphere, the characterizations, the narratives, the final executions, everything. It you want to read something “out of this world”, then I suggest you to try this book.

Rating: 4.5/5

Note: This review is submitted to fulfill Opat’s 2016 Japanese Literature Reading Challenge.

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The Housekeeper and the Professor

newest Vintage edition’s cover

When we talk about Yoko Ogawa—that is, her works in English translation that have come to our radar—we might be forcefully reminded of her signature narrative, which is typically eerie and subtly atmospheric. And we might expect the same thing when we have The Housekeeper and the Professor in our hands, a 2003 novella which was first published in English in 2009. But you might be fooled, as much as I have been, once you read the very first page and fall into its rhythm. You’ll still encounter some mysteries, which are embedded in its tight plot, but mostly you’ll find it sweet and tender.

An unnamed housekeeper, who also serves as the narrator of the book, unsuspectingly takes a new job where she has to serve a 60-year-old mathematician at his shabby cottage. Nine housekeepers have already come and gone before her and none of them could bear the burden that comes with the job description. The housekeeper doesn’t find anything odd nor difficult in her daily duties, except for one thing: the professor’s memory only lasts for 80 minutes. The car accident he had in 1975 has cost him all of his memories he gains after that particular year. Every morning, when she comes for work, the housekeeper has to reintroduce herself and the professor will always restart their introduction with the same question involving numbers. As the time goes by, however, the housekeeper becomes more and more curious about mathematics and fascinated by the professor. The bond between them becomes stronger and stronger, more than just a bond between an employer and an employee, but it’s never a romantic one. Say it’s full of compassion, but it’s more mysterious than anything and cannot be explained through words nor formulas. Unfortunately, their moment together is unlike numbers which have no limits.

Ogawa’s The Housekeeper and the Professor has sweet and tender vibes radiated throughout its narrative, kept neatly at almost every spot of the plot. We can strongly sense them in the professor’s pure love for children, in his forever fascination with numbers, in his inexplicable relationship with the housekeeper, even in the peace he feels every time he solves mathematical problems or when he is watching the housekeeper cooking. Those sweetness and tenderness also emanate from the funny scenes, which often come out unexpectedly. Besides the two qualities, though, there is also an air of mystery, especially in the way the professor connects and communicates with the housekeeper. As strong as their bond might be, it’s not something that we can call romantic, or passionate. It’s sincere, yes, and scattered with jealousy on the housekeeper’s part sometimes. But it is not a simple love, it is more than you might think it is. And I think that is what this book is all about. It’s about love that is so unusual, as tricky and complex as mathematical formulas and all the numbers they produce.

The Housekeeper and the Professor is a short novel which relies heavily on its compact yet engrossing narrative, armed with a puzzle not only of numbers but also of words. The steady pace of the plot renders it very much enjoyable to read, although at the last 1/3 part of the book it feels a little bit too fast. That doesn’t matter, though, because all the mysteries there are arranged ever so neatly and revealed with so much care. Reading this book was like going on a smooth ride on a pleasant day, all nice and fun. If there was anything that’s ruining my joyful ride at times, it was the character of the sister-in-law and the reason she extracts herself from the professor’s life. At some point in the book, the housekeeper ponders whether it can be the way the sister-in-law keeps their “special bond” intact, but I still can’t see why it should be that way. Other obstacle coming to my way was all those numbers, mathematical theories and formulas talked about by the professor along the book. I have to admit, I am so dull at mathematics, and having to face all those things was almost like a pain in the neck to me. It was so unbearable that sometimes I had to skip the parts when the professor or the housekeeper starts to do their calculations.

All the hindrances aside, I still think The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa is an enjoyable, fabulous novella. It triggered my smile and made me teary-eyed at the end, not because it is tragic but because it is what the end should naturally be.

Rating: 4/5

Note: This review is submitted to fulfill Opat’s 2016 Japanese Literature Reading Challenge.

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Hotel Iris

newest Vintage edition’s cover

Once again, Yōko Ogawa has mesmerized me with her simple yet wondrously enigmatic narrative. Reading Hotel Iris, I couldn’t help but let myself drowning in its every line that I wasn’t capable of just passing through the plot without scrutinizing what actually happened. I honestly didn’t think Ogawa set the atmosphere to be so nuanced on purpose, and yet it managed to flip my emotion endlessly from down flat and calm to violently churning and disgusted. Ogawa really has it in her to create a story which gets the reader reeling and thinking even when they don’t realize it.

Set in a seaside little town, the story of Hotel Iris begins as Mari, a 17-year-old girl, recounts the first time she meets a strange old man whom she knows to be, and henceforth calls, the translator. It is just a day before the summer arrives and the translator takes a lodging at the title hotel apparently to spend the night with a prostitute. But things go wrong as suddenly the middle-aged loose woman starts shouting and screaming names at the translator, leaving him to bear the shame and pay the rent and more. Mari should be afraid of him, or at least disgusted by the sight, but she feels none of those. Instead, she feels attracted and enchanted by the voice of the translator, which radiates dominance and power yet so soft and deep that she finds it lulling. At this point the reader must be starting to think that there is something wrong with Mari, for from then on we can see the girl and the translator forge a complicated, inexplicable relationship nobody nor nothing can explain. They meet in secret, with Mari stealing times between her grueling duties at her family-owned hotel, and involve in lurid actions of unusual, bondage kind of sex. But what they have together doesn’t only go as far as physical intimacy, for there are also affection and “otherworldly” love. Somehow Mari knows that they cannot stay together the way they want it, but she also realizes that there is definitely no way out for their situation.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that both Mari and the translator are particularly unique characters I’ve never encountered in any fiction books before. But they do have complexity of their own, one that gets the reader wondering, “There must be something wrong with them, but what?” It is not my first time having a taste of something about bondage sex with layered characters, but these ones created by Ogawa are really mind-boggling because she doesn’t seem to present them to the reader deliberately as troubled persons. Reading them through, we will only think that they are just ordinary people, a young girl and an old man we see everyday in the street. However, once they shift to their secluded world, they sort of change all of a sudden into people we do not recognize anymore, people with totally opposite natures. It is not merely about a quiet, obedient girl versus a sexually inexperienced virgin eager for some humiliating, thrilling sex; nor is it merely about an awkward, seems-so-normal old man versus an anger-ridden dominant. There is something more to their characterizations, something more than meets the eye, and it is trapped in the shore road they tread on every time they feel like bringing their intricate love to the territory of pain and pleasure.

Though not as cryptic and eerie as all novellas in The Diving Pool, Hotel Iris is still surprising in some ways, especially when Yōko Ogawa shows Mari’s daring to pursue what becomes her heart’s desire and indulge her passion for commanding love behind her pitiful helplessness. The narrative is just as simple, and doesn’t really have any twists nor turns, but shocking all the same. On the surface, it seems so smooth without so much as a bump that the reader can read it easily and enjoyably, but when we look at it more closely, there are more unpleasant moments than we actually want to know. Ogawa seems to want the reader to see, even though not understand completely, the nature of Mari and the translator’s relationship—what happens between them and what they have together—through the melancholy narration voiced by Mari herself and the gloomy love letters written by the translator, which in turn compile the whole storyline. The sex scenes might be a bit disturbing for those who never read anything like this before, and way too horrible for those who find BDSM thing quite abnormal. Be that as it may, I think Ogawa can handle them pretty elegantly that they don’t look too much vulgar nor terrible to my liking, and feel rather saddening instead. The way to the ending is too short in my opinion, but to be fair, it’s only a novella so no one would expect Ogawa to prolong it in any way. Besides, the conclusion is what I expect from a story like this.

Overall, Hotel Iris by Yōko Ogawa is a truly marvelous work. I wouldn’t say that it’s flawless, but it’s up there. By this book, Ogawa has really made me fall in love with her, not because she is a brave author who dares to write something disturbing, but because she can do it with clever elegance.

Rating: 4/5

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The Diving Pool

newest Vintage edition’s cover (source: amazon.co.uk)

It’s disturbingly beautiful, and beautifully disturbing. Yōko Ogawa’s The Diving Pool, a collection of three novellas, had me trapped completely in its quiet eeriness while I was marveling at the absorbing writing. This was my very first try at reading Yōko Ogawa and already my third one at Japanese literature, though I wouldn’t say that I’ve finally been able to wrap my mind around it. Even now, I’m still finding it difficult to fully catch the very basic idea that lies beneath every narrative written by Japanese authors. This may be an evidence of my low understanding of Japanese literary art, but I can assure you that it doesn’t stop me at all from thoroughly enjoying it.

In the first novella, of which title is also used as the book’s title, Ogawa tells a story of a teenage girl who lives in an orphanage. The dreadful loneliness that surges through her comes from the fact that she, as the only child of the orphanage’s owners, cannot have her parents’ love and attention to herself, while she cannot possibly cut ties with them to join the ranks. The heavy burden of that loneliness on her shoulders becomes more intense as she falls in love with one of the orphans her parents take care of, Jun. For some reason, she cannot tell anyone, even Jun himself, about her feelings for him. She is so caged in her own secret love that she consciously, or not, does bad things to someone else weaker.

The second story sees a single woman’s keeping record of his sister’s pregnancy every so often, if not regularly. In this novella entitled Pregnancy Diary, instead of talking about the growth of the baby, the woman seems more interested in capturing her sister’s changing mood, seemingly endless morning sickness, strange food craving, psychologically disturbed condition, the husband’s doting attitude, and their reluctance to talk about their baby. Oddly enough, as the narrative moves forward, the single woman doesn’t appear to feel any sympathy nor empathy for her sister. She may not understand how it feels to be with child, but her nonchalant attitude makes the reader wonder if she ever cares about her sibling at all.

Dormitory is the simplest yet the most mysterious story of all. It tells about a woman who comes back to the dormitory she lived in all those days of her study at the university, her intention being helping her much younger cousin register and get a room there. She feels a rush of memories and that nothing has changed, physically. However, the fact is that there isn’t a single student living there anymore, and the Manager, a disabled old man with a weakening body, lives all alone to keep the building. Every once in a while, the woman goes to the shabby dormitory to visit her cousin. But instead of meeting him, she always, and only, gets to meet the Manager. Through their frequent encounters and long conversations, she comes to know what drives people to leave the place and not to come back forever: a boy has gone missing, and everyone throws their suspicion at the Manager. No one knows where the boy has gone, and why. It remains a mystery, and the Manager remains lonely in his last critical days.

All the main characters of the three novellas feel, and present, the same thing: loneliness. At least, that’s what I got throughout reading them. They seem to be isolated, unattached to anything and anyone, despite their familial relationships. They are also unbearably gloomy, depressed, sad in some ways… All the words that can possibly describe them seem to lead the reader to anything but social and happy. It makes me wonder, is this the basic idea? The sense of loneliness? Isolation? Unattachment to anything and anyone? Or is it their response to those senses? However, what I noticed most was that they have quite different characterizations. Thus, in turn, the nature of their actions and deeds differ from each other. While Aya tends to be abusive, and the single woman aloof, the lonely married woman in Dormitory seems to err on the side of caring.

The Diving Pool is very nice to read, very easy to devour. Despite the eerie atmosphere and cryptic message, all the three novellas are so beautifully written in great detail that readers will not miss a thing. Every inanimate object, every token, every scene are depicted as meticulously as possible, allowing the reader to have a clear picture in their minds and follow the plot without difficulty. The pace set by Ogawa for every single story is comfortably steady and not too hasty, and the tone she immerses into it resonates very much strongly even from the simplest word or sentence. Yōko Ogawa has presented us with a writing of profound beauty, with gripping characters to boot. And, surely, I have to thank Stephen Snyder, the translator, for the smooth translation so I could enjoy that writing.

So, despite my lack of intelligence in fully comprehending the prose style of Japanese literary works, I can say that I did enjoy The Diving Pool. Perhaps its cryptic, enigmatic nature is a part of its charm and attraction. At some point I even thought that the stories in it are more mysterious than any mystery novel I read recently.

Rating: 3.5/5