Hardboiled & Hard Luck (Anglais) Broché – 14 septembre 2006
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“Hardboiled” is the more straightforward of the two, albeit full of omens, dreams and ghosts from the past, sketching a woman’s hike in the mountains and her eventful overnight stay in a small town hotel. Late in the tale she realizes she has forgotten the anniversary of the death of her friend/lover Shizuru. Full of cross references and symbolism and an example of how much closer Japanese feel to living in a fleeting world with multiple gods and ancestral spirits, where time can slow down, stop or surge ahead. Like Murakami’s “After Midnight”, this story covers less than 24 hours.
Whilst Shizuru’s death came suddenly and its long-term impact on her friend is hard to grasp for readers, “Hard Luck” is a study of the predicted and real death and bereavement of female narrator’s sister Kuni, for months on life support after a brain hemorrhage. The reader is taken on an emotional tour of the narrator’s memories of her sister, the response from Kuni’s fiancé and his older brother Sakai, her former work colleagues, her parents… It ends on a slightly higher note than “Hardboiled”. Needs to be read more than once to fully appreciate it.
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Both Hardboiled and Hard Luck explore themes that have been prevalent in yoshomoto's previous works. Themes like friendship, death, grief, memories and love wove their way through these two short stories.
Hardboiled, the first of the stories, is about a young woman visiting a town on her lover's anniversary. A series of strange things happen to her on the way, and she flits into dreamworld and memories. The story takes us along as she comes to terms with her friend's death.
The second part of the book, hard luck, is the story of a young woman dealing with her brain damaged sister. As a result of an ebolism in the sister's brain, she goes into a coma, and then begins the progress of her death infront of her loved ones. The narrator, the younger sister, visits her sister in the beginning of the novel and reflects on her state and is plagued with memories of the past. There she also meets her sister's fiance's brother for the first time and her reaction towards him makes her realize that altho grieving, she is also getting back to her normal life.
Both stories, although written simply as the norm with yoshomoto's novels, are filled with a myriad of strong emotions. Goodbye Tsugumi still remains my personal favorite of her novels.
So it is with the two stories in this volume. In "Hardboiled" we have a young woman hiking and spending the night in a hotel on the anniversary of a friend/former lover's death. In the hotel she dreams of her friend and encounters the ghost of another woman who has committed suicide in the hotel. In "Hard Luck" we have a young woman whose sister is dying in a hospital because of an embolism and she is about to be taken off life support. In the course of the vigil and through the funeral she encounters the brother of her dead sister's fiancé and feels the first stirrings of love--the realization that life must go on.
Of course, my summaries do not do these stories justice. As always, Ms. Yoshimoto has produced simple, yet beautiful and truthful stories. My complaint is the dearth of text here. Almost all of Ms. Yoshimoto's books are brief but it amazes me the publishers had the nerve to put these two stories between hardcovers and price them what they did. Another couple stories of this caliber would have made it much more worthwhile. It's difficult not to feel you're getting a bit cheated.
Both stories are amazing and thought provoking. Profound is a word I would use to describe them. The second story is so touching when the protagonist starts to fall for the brother of her sister's fiance, but is unable to act on her feelings due to circumstance. We do see that there is hope for each of the characters on their own, but we the readers are really rooting for them. It is sad, touching, and very enjoyable.
The first story is mysterious and is a little more thought provoking. Who are we and what are we here for? Is there such a thing as destiny? Yoshimoto seems to transcend modern literature with these two stories and enter a realm that is reserved for only the very best writers.
I do sense that she and Haruki Murakami have a somewhat kindred spirit when reading these two stories. I read these two stories in a single sitting, they were so magical. This is not the obvious, spoon fed style of literature many Westerners are exposed to, but an elegant, light touch of prose that enters the mind and travels to the spirit. Not everyone will enjoy it, not everyone will agree with me... but please at least read these tales once and embrace the subtlety.
In the first short story, 'Hardboiled', the narrator went to stay in a country hotel on the anniversary of her ex-girlfriend's death. The narrative is interesting as the living and the dead are all woven together in the plot. Perhaps, it is really hard to distinguish who is living, or non-living (dead and non-living are different, in a metaphorical sense). There's a particularly interesting, which is about that it is not the dead that we should be afraid of, but the living. The story talks about the pain of losing a partner and the nostalgia of their romance.
In the second story, 'Hard Luck', another narrator has a sister who is going to die of a brain damage. This story is not as gothic as the first one and the suspense created by the notion of death is absent. Instead, it gives you a sweet account of the sisterhood between the living and the dead-to-be. There is also a romantic subplot in the story, between the narrator and the brother of her sister's fiance. The last chapter on the relationship between musical enlightenment and death sounds familiar in Haruki Murakami's fiction, especially in Kafka on the Shore and Dance Dance Dance.
The stories are written in plain English. There's no fancy description on the setting and the psychology of the characters. But the plainness works effectively in order to bring out the theme, death. There are a few regrets upon reading the book. First, I was expecting Yoshimoto to explore the theme of lesbianism or sexuality a bit more in the first story, as she did in Kitchen. I was trying to compare it with Murakami's Spunik Sweetheart. Second, I was looking for a more substantial work since her last publication. The stories are just too short to satisfy her readers. Perhaps, she might have published more in Japanese. I always don't know why the English version needs to take so long. Or are they not translating all her works?