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Kitchen PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: Kitchen
Author: Banana Yoshimoto
Publisher: Published April 17th 2006 by Grove Press (first published January 30th 1988)
ISBN: 9780802142443
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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Banana Yoshimoto's novels have made her a sensation in Japan and all over the world, and Kitchen, the dazzling English-language debut that is still her best-loved book, is an enchantingly original and deeply affecting book about mothers, love, tragedy, and the power of the kitchen and home in the lives of a pair of free-spirited young women in contemporary Japan. Mikage, t Banana Yoshimoto's novels have made her a sensation in Japan and all over the world, and Kitchen, the dazzling English-language debut that is still her best-loved book, is an enchantingly original and deeply affecting book about mothers, love, tragedy, and the power of the kitchen and home in the lives of a pair of free-spirited young women in contemporary Japan. Mikage, the heroine of Kitchen, is an orphan raised by her grandmother, who has passed away. Grieving, she is taken in by her friend Yoichi and his mother (who was once his father), Eriko. As the three of them form an improvised family that soon weathers its own tragic losses, Yoshimoto spins a lovely, evocative tale that recalls early Marguerite Duras. Kitchen and its companion story, "Moonlight Shadow," are elegant tales whose seeming simplicity is the ruse of a writer whose voice echoes in the mind and the soul.

30 review for Kitchen

  1. 4 out of 5

    Samadrita

    There's something about Japanese writers. They have the unparalleled ability of transforming an extremely ordinary scene from our everyday mundane lives into something magical and other-worldly. A man walking along a river-bank on a misty April morning may appear to our senses as an ethereal being, barely human, on the path to deliverance and self-discovery. There's something deeply melancholic yet powerfully meaningful about the beautiful vignettes they beget. Few other writers are capable of c There's something about Japanese writers. They have the unparalleled ability of transforming an extremely ordinary scene from our everyday mundane lives into something magical and other-worldly. A man walking along a river-bank on a misty April morning may appear to our senses as an ethereal being, barely human, on the path to deliverance and self-discovery. There's something deeply melancholic yet powerfully meaningful about the beautiful vignettes they beget. Few other writers are capable of creating such exquisite surrealistic imagery as the Japanese writers. Kitchen, by Banana Yoshimoto, is no exception to this cherished convention. Revolving around the theme of dealing with loss, Kitchen focuses on two young women as protagonists and their perceptions of life and death. It tells us about how recurring personal tragedies shape and reshape our views on life and death, the kind of catharsis we wish for and the mechanisms we often end up resorting to, in order to keep our personal grief from spilling over into the realm of our everyday reality. Kitchen is definitely not the most ingeniously narrated tale ever. Rather it suffers from the monotony of brief, simple sentences that may not sit well with some readers who love eloquence. But this simplistic mode of narration helps it stay true to its original intention, that of recounting the story of ordinary people doing ordinary things yet coming to unexpectedly profound realizations about the great quandary of life.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brina

    Kitchen and its accompanying story Moonlight Shadow comprise the first novella by award winning Japanese novelist Banana Yoshimoto. Both stories are told through the eyes of young women grieving following the death of a loved one, and deal with how that death plays a profound role in relationships going forward. Told in straight forward prose leaving nothing to chance, Yoshimoto tells two elegant stories. In Kitchen, Mikage Sakurai had just lost her grandmother, the last person in her family to Kitchen and its accompanying story Moonlight Shadow comprise the first novella by award winning Japanese novelist Banana Yoshimoto. Both stories are told through the eyes of young women grieving following the death of a loved one, and deal with how that death plays a profound role in relationships going forward. Told in straight forward prose leaving nothing to chance, Yoshimoto tells two elegant stories. In Kitchen, Mikage Sakurai had just lost her grandmother, the last person in her family to pass away. Alone in the world and unable to cope with her university schedule, Mikage falls into a bleak existence. One day, a classmate named Yuichi Tanabe invites her to live with him and his mother in their apartment because Mikage's grandmother had a profound effect on him. Although reluctant to accept the kindness, Mikage agrees and the Tanabe's couch becomes her new home. Mikage becomes rooted in the kitchen. It becomes her compass by which she compares all homes that she has ever entered. Upon arriving, she takes over cooking for Yuichi and his mother Eriko, a transvestite who runs an all night club. Both lead busy lives and emit positive energy, encouraging Mikage to engage in her newfound passion of cooking. The three make up a new family unit until Mikage can recover from all the death around her. Months pass and Eriko is murdered at her club. The tables turn and Mikage helps Yuichi cope with his loss. Their relationship continues to center around food, and Yoshimoto paints a vivid picture of their life with her description of food and colors as well as Mikage's dreams that determine which life path that she should take. Although both Mikage and Yuichi appear to have bleak existences, their story ends with the reader feeling hopeful that they have finally turned the corner. These dreams segue to Yoshimoto's second story, Moonlight Shadow. Satsuki is only twenty years old when her boyfriend of four years Hitoshi passes away in a tragic accident. Unable to cope, she turns to jogging in order to push away sad thoughts. Hitoshi's brother Hiirage who is also coping with the death in his own way attempts to pull Satsuki out of her destitute life, yet to no avail. Eventually a stranger named Urara appears and tells Satsuki of a phenomenon that could end her pain at once. This leads to a denouement in which Yoshimoto gives Satsuki hope for her future. Banana Yoshimoto has been a leading Japanese novelist for the past thirty years. Her first two stories contrast the pain of death for the living with their hope for a brighter future. Using luscious imagery of food and dreams, Yoshimoto creates vivid scenes in which the living should be happy to be alive. These two stories compliment each other perfectly and rate 4 bright stars.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    Can cooking help you cope with the despondency you feel from loss? I’m not talking about wolfing down garlic mashed potatoes from a pan; I’m talking about a multi-course gourmet meal that you are willing to toss out if it’s not perfect and start all over again. That’s the theme of Kitchen. Our main character is a twentyish-woman who lost her father at an early age and then her mother. She went to live with grandparents but her grandfather died, and then her grandmother, and now she has no living Can cooking help you cope with the despondency you feel from loss? I’m not talking about wolfing down garlic mashed potatoes from a pan; I’m talking about a multi-course gourmet meal that you are willing to toss out if it’s not perfect and start all over again. That’s the theme of Kitchen. Our main character is a twentyish-woman who lost her father at an early age and then her mother. She went to live with grandparents but her grandfather died, and then her grandmother, and now she has no living relatives. She turns to her kitchen. But she is also invited to live with the family of a young man she has known since childhood. Now here’s a modern family: just two people, the young man and his mother. But did I tell you his father is his mother? Or, to phrase that more correctly, his mother is his father? It’s a transgender situation. The two young people are drawn to each other but then he is hit by loss. They grapple with trying to help each other, maybe love each other, or maybe just pity each other, and try to stop each other from jumping over the edge. This very short novel has a short story appended at the end: Moonlight Shadow. This story, also about loss, and it could be the same woman, takes us into magical realism. Maybe they do come back, at least to tell you they’re ok. I found the two stories very moving and fascinating to read. Translated from the Japanese. Photo: Model of a Japanese kitchen, ca. 1880, from peabody.harvard.edu

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jason Pettus

    Oh, let's face it; I love everything Banana Yoshimoto's ever written! But that said, she's not for everyone; she's a minimalist storyteller, at least in my opinion, able to turn the emotional state of the right reader with the flick of just one beautiful perfect phrase, but only if you're ready to catch that beautiful perfect phrase and appreciate it for what it is. Give up on this review yet? Then you shouldn't be reading Yoshimoto! Actually consisting of two novellas, Kitchen (named after the Oh, let's face it; I love everything Banana Yoshimoto's ever written! But that said, she's not for everyone; she's a minimalist storyteller, at least in my opinion, able to turn the emotional state of the right reader with the flick of just one beautiful perfect phrase, but only if you're ready to catch that beautiful perfect phrase and appreciate it for what it is. Give up on this review yet? Then you shouldn't be reading Yoshimoto! Actually consisting of two novellas, Kitchen (named after the better of the two) is the story of 1990s urban life in Japan, full of quirky postmodern characters right at the beginning of an age where the Web let everyone on the planet understand that. If you liked the movie "Amelie," you'll love the sparse, haunting story of a hurt woman being told here, who slowly learns to trust the world again through the relative warmth of urban kitchens; like I said, the finale can be heartbreaking if you let it. Oh, just read any of Yoshimoto's books, seriously!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jr Bacdayan

    This is a book on healing, a lovely look at the hurting human heart and its captivating reflection. Convalescence has never been so beautiful. One has to admit that the theme of loss in literature has been one of the most exploited and has been done so masterfully by the best. But never have I encountered one on recovery where it has been handled as exquisitely. “Everyone we love is dying. Still, to cease living is unacceptable.” When you lose someone, a void is created. You seek to fill that hol This is a book on healing, a lovely look at the hurting human heart and its captivating reflection. Convalescence has never been so beautiful. One has to admit that the theme of loss in literature has been one of the most exploited and has been done so masterfully by the best. But never have I encountered one on recovery where it has been handled as exquisitely. “Everyone we love is dying. Still, to cease living is unacceptable.” When you lose someone, a void is created. You seek to fill that hole inside you. Stability is what you desire, because your once solid world of certainties has crumbled. And so we latch onto the most basic things and habits. Constant things we know that will never leave and never fail us: a kitchen, cooking, the road, running, clothing, videos, pictures, songs, books. You lean on that, get strength from the habit till you are strong enough to gamble on more uncertain things. Hurt is ice. It melts; it turns to water that evaporates into thin air. But ice takes time to melt, tear by tear. There is nothing you can do but wait, and so you do. Until the time when the coldness is gone and you sigh and inhale the air that was once pain. “In a downpour of blessings, I prayed, as though it were a hymn: Let me become stronger.” Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto is divided into two stories of love, loss, and hope. It’s one of the most breath-taking pieces of literature I’ve read. The stories’ elegant simplicity feels like a breeze of cold air that can hurt, numb, and refresh. There’s also an element in the writing that feels almost evanescent, a certain transparency that is pure honesty. I wasn’t instantly spell-binded as you might think. It took a while, but when it did, it felt right. Everything was perfectly clear, like looking into a small pond seeing your own reflection and washing your face with its cold clear water. I really needed this. Oftentimes we read books, they touch us and we cry but after a few hours it’s completely out of mind. Sometimes though, just sometimes we encounter a book that touches us so directly that it isn’t readily manifested by external emotions. This book is one of those. I didn’t cry, but I suffered. The last paragraph is nothing but one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. It stirred something inside me and after reading I felt a deep tranquility. I felt at peace. It seemed like a heavy burden was lifted from me and after, a delicious calm radiated through me. It still does. I feel light. I feel like flying, soaring. The worst is yet to come, but I feel hope.

  6. 5 out of 5

    TK421

    One of the many things I love about goodreads is that a person is able to see what other “friends” think about a novel before committing oneself to reading it. I would have never read KITCHEN had I not seen that Mariel, Oriana, and Jason Pettus, three of my friends, all thought highly of this slim book. But, even with the high ratings of these three “friends”, I still had to find out information about Banana Yoshimoto, the author. So I went to Wikipedia (obviously, where else would I go?) and re One of the many things I love about goodreads is that a person is able to see what other “friends” think about a novel before committing oneself to reading it. I would have never read KITCHEN had I not seen that Mariel, Oriana, and Jason Pettus, three of my friends, all thought highly of this slim book. But, even with the high ratings of these three “friends”, I still had to find out information about Banana Yoshimoto, the author. So I went to Wikipedia (obviously, where else would I go?) and read about her accomplishments and many literary awards in her home country of Japan. It seemed there was a phase lovingly referred to as Bananamania both in the US and in Japan. Then, just as I had decided that perhaps this book was not worth moving to the top of my TBR pile, I saw that Yoshimoto had outspokenly said that she aims to win the Nobel Prize in literature. (I loved this bravado!) Most critics don’t see this as happening, saying she is a “lightweight.” Well, I put what the critics had to say aside and began reading this novel. And I have to say I loved the use of a kitchen as a metaphor for life and life’s daily interactions. When you stop to think about it, there are a lot of events that happen in a kitchen over the course of the day. I had never stopped to give this much thought. (In graduate school I did read some essays by a sociologist and anthropologist team that ventured across Europe studying bathrooms as a way to see into a country’s culture.) But if the kitchen metaphor was only a stand-a-lone point of the story, the book would have floundered. So Yoshimoto supplies whatever actions happen in a kitchen (home, apartment, restaurant, even the simple act of eating as communion) with direct language that is sparse, beautiful, and laden with underlying messages. You see, the real question of this novel is: What does love mean to a person when it becomes absent in one’s life? This is an incredibly difficult question to answer, for both the characters in the story as well as for the reader. In the story, Mikage loses her grandmother and is then invited to stay with Eriko (a transvestite) and her (his) son, Yuichi. For the most part, this piecemeal family goes about its daily interactions as any “normal” family would. That is until tragedy strikes. I won’t spoil what happens, but let’s just say Mikage loses again, along with some other characters. It is at this point that the reader takes on a new role: one of participant. There are several choices that the reader must make: 1) stop reading; 2) allow the events to play out and continue reading; or 3) believe in the tragedy and get lost in the story. I chose number 3. And even though I have no basis of understanding to compare to these characters, I felt their pain, the confusion, the moments of helplessness that teeter precariously on the edge of hopelessness. Perhaps it would be easy to label this as just a sentimental novel by an overrated novelist—but that may be missing the point. This is a powerful novel if allowed to be read as a powerful novel. It tries to give answers to difficult questions. Sometimes the novel succeeds. Sometimes it fails, even, dare I say, becomes hokey. But all of that can be whitewashed over by the simple notion that this novel achieves what other great novels achieve: the ability to be whatever the reader wants it to be. I cannot say that Banana Yoshimoto will be a contender for the Nobel Prize, but I can say that she delivers a strong argument for being one of the great writers currently writing today. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cecily

    "People aren't overcome by situations or outside forces; defeat invades from within." I didn't like this book. It comprises a novella (Kitchen) and short story (Moonlight Shadow), but I'm not sure how much is the book's fault, and how much can be attributed to being set in an unfamiliar culture (Japanese teens/twenties), possibly bad translation, and that although the atmosphere is contemporary, it was actually written and set nearly 30 years ago. I was expecting lyrical language, and quirky insig "People aren't overcome by situations or outside forces; defeat invades from within." I didn't like this book. It comprises a novella (Kitchen) and short story (Moonlight Shadow), but I'm not sure how much is the book's fault, and how much can be attributed to being set in an unfamiliar culture (Japanese teens/twenties), possibly bad translation, and that although the atmosphere is contemporary, it was actually written and set nearly 30 years ago. I was expecting lyrical language, and quirky insights into Japanese attitudes to death and LGBTQ issues. I was sadly disappointed, but kept going because it was short and because I gave up part way through my previous book (something I rarely do). Language: Teens and Translation The weaknesses here made me sad. Both stories are narrated by a (different) young woman. The language is often simple, but rather than the spare beauty I vaguely associate with Japanese and Chinese writing, it's mostly just banal and awkward. That may be how angst-ridden, love-up, bereaved Japanese YAs really speak (or spoke, 30 years ago) or it may be the translation, but the result is the same. After a particularly egregious section of stilted psychobabble, one character says, "What kind of talk is that? Sounds like it was translated from English." I guess the author is aware of how clunky it is. Odd. "It's amazing how good this is," I said. "Isn't it," said Hiiraji. "Yes, it's delicious. So delicious it makes me grateful I'm alive," I said. Another: "Why do I love everything that has to do with kitchens so much?... a kitchen represents some distant longing engraved on my soul." Does anyone think like that? (And it doesn't answer the question anyway.) Metaphors must be hard to translate, but this one is so mixed up, I grudgingly admire it: "The two of us, alone, were flowing down that river of light, suspended in the cosmic darkness, and were approaching a critical juncture." Maybe YAs would relate to the characters better than I did (I have no idea), but I'd be reluctant to recommend it to them because of the next problem... Transgender is not Transvestite The weaknesses here made me cross. Anyone concerned with LGBTQ issues (especially trans ones) may feel the urge to throw this book at the wall. One has to remember it's a different culture, a generation ago, but the trouble is, it doesn't feel like a historical novel. One young man takes to wearing his dead girlfriend's sailor-suit school uniform. He finds that comforting (and no one would think it odd for a girl to wear a boyfriend's jumper); a female friend is "mortified" to be seen with him, but other girls find it attractive because they assume it means he understands women. Not exactly enlightened views, but plausible, perhaps. However, they're not challenged, which tacitly condones them. Worse, is the trans character. She's much loved and sympathetically portrayed, but the terminology is muddled and descriptions would raise eyebrows and hackles nowadays. Early on, she is described as having "had everything 'done', from her face to her whatever", but she is often referred to as "really" being a man or a transvestite. Then it turns out that it was only when her wife died that she realised "I didn't like being a man... It became clear that the best thing to do was to adopt a sort of muddled cheerfulness. So I became a woman." Really?! Just like that? To be cheerfully muddled?! Finding Solace after Bereavement The sudden death of loved ones is a unifying aspect of both stories. They all find awkward support from each other, and one finds solace in kitchens and food, another in jogging (and the river that had divided them, been their meeting place, and was ultimately where they were separated for ever). "I felt that I was the only person alive and moving in a world brought to a stop. Houses always feel like that after someone has died." If I had lost a parent, partner or child, maybe I'd have been more engaged with this book, but I suspect my experience would be so different as to be barely comparable. I'm grateful that I'm not in the position to compare. Still, this helpfully explains that losing a partner is even worse than losing a dog or a bird! So I've learned something. Depth? There were glimpses of something deeper. When overtly self-analytical, I don't think they worked, but some were genuinely poignant and thought-provoking. Mikage was an orphan, raised by her grandmother: "I was always aware that my family consisted of only one other person. The space that cannot be filled, no matter how cheerfully a child and an old person live together - the deathly silence that, panting in the corner of the room, pushes its way in like a shudder." (The punctuation is a little odd, though.) Reality, Magical Realism, Dreams Both stories have a dash of this. In the first, it's a dream that might be a premonition; in the second, there's an ethereal character who (maybe) shows another character a little gap in time. Quote * "Far off in the pale sky, thin clouds gently flowed, suspended." * "It was the kind of frozen morning in which mood shadows seem to be pasted on the sky." * "She was someone whose face told you nothing." * "The little girl, whose face epitomized 'grandchild'." * "Her power was the brilliance of her charm" which "condemned her to an ice-cold loneliness." * "The sound of raindrops began to fall in the transparent stillness of the evening." * Traditional housewives "had been taught, probably by caring parents, not to exceed the boundaries of their happiness". * "On the deserted bridge, with the city misted over by the blue haze of dawn, my eyes absently followed the white embankment that continued on to who knows where. I rested, enveloped by the sound of the current." * "I want to continue living with the awareness that I will die. Without that, I am not alive." Hmmm.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey

    4.5/5 A couple of days ago, I watched a film called Millenium Actress, a Japanese anime film centered around the life of a once wildly popular Japanese film star. I loved it for its lovely story as well as its wonderful animation, but most of all for its peculiar disregard of many of the 'rules' of film that I hadn't realized I unconsciously followed until they were subverted. This sort of bending and breaking of my own sensibilities into something I had never considered something that would work 4.5/5 A couple of days ago, I watched a film called Millenium Actress, a Japanese anime film centered around the life of a once wildly popular Japanese film star. I loved it for its lovely story as well as its wonderful animation, but most of all for its peculiar disregard of many of the 'rules' of film that I hadn't realized I unconsciously followed until they were subverted. This sort of bending and breaking of my own sensibilities into something I had never considered something that would work is rampant in this book here, on a much more heartbreaking level. As both the film and the book are Japanese, there could be a correlation that other partakers of that particular cultural entertainment would be familiar with, but I shy away from labeling it as something inherent on a sociocultural level. Instead, I will describe it on my own terms, and see what happens from there. Kitchen is subsumed in grief. Each part of the story is centered around the death of one or more individuals, who through their passing have prompted the narrator and other characters to go forth on their own personal journeys of coming to grips with what has been left to them. What is missing, an absence that at first bewildered me but one that I now see as beneficial, is the pomp and circumstance that usually accompanies such events. There is no factoring in of all the usual aspects of funerals, mourning rituals, all those standards imposed upon individuals by the weight of tradition and the history of society. In a word, this story has no interest in the attempts of life to make death a thing that can not only be dealt with methods of logic, but also bureaucratic. Instead, the words are short, sweet, and sharp, as each narrator falls upon their knife of grief and attempts to walk it off. Here, there is no sweeping away of the tragedy into a neat compartmentalization, a time to mourn and a time to thrive coexisting in carefully delineated measurements of a person's history. For how can the horror of a beloved one being taken away in such an unfairly abrupt and often nonsensical manner ever be reconciled, as if the matter could heal as cleanly as a broken bone knitting up in a predictable number of days? As if the evolution of coping with an overwhelming loss could be graphed for all affected, and therein calculate a formulaic equation specifically calibrated for speeding up the resolution as efficiently as possible. As if it was a lie that when it came down to it, one is alone and will always be alone with one's mind, and that is how the battle of mournful reconciliation must always be fought. While it is true that there is always a banality to this process, it is also true that reality is sometimes stranger than fiction. And here, the overwhelming potential of storytelling chooses to direct its narrators and their tragedies along plots that reject the popular assumption of sadness having more believability than happiness. Unexpected acquaintances welcome stricken souls in for as long as they need a rest from the forceful expectations of reality. Methodologies of all sorts are taken up in the quest to come to terms with loss, whether it be cooking, running, crossdressing, or sex change surgery. The little beauties of seemingly mundane surroundings birth alongside the gaping holes that despair has left in the intermittent musings of daily life. Words such as 'weird' and 'strange' lose their potency in the face of the fact that, had these unusual and rather unbelievable circumstances never come to pass, another life may have joined the ones that had gone before it. Would that have made the story better? Treating death with the cold dignity of normal proceedings, forbidding the thick interweave of both passionate joy and debilitating sorrow in the span of a short paragraph, scoffing at the small and sometimes magical coincidences that led others in unexpected ways to a life worth living? Should the path to reconciliation always be one of proud obligation, or can it be erratic, irresponsible, and sometimes even sweet? The choice is always personal, and one must always make it on one's own. Me, I like the idea of a peculiar path being available to those who are faced with the death of a loved one, the most peculiar situation of all. If one is must decide how to live their life past the gap, shouldn't that life be their own?

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lynne King

    ...if a person hasn't ever experienced true despair, she grows old never knowing how to evaluate where she is in life; never understanding what joy really is. I'm grateful for it. Samadrita in her excellent review began with: There's something about Japanese writers. They have the unparalleled ability of transforming an extremely ordinary scene from our everyday mundane lives into something magical and other-worldly. I thoroughly agree with her and that magical quality transforms what could have ...if a person hasn't ever experienced true despair, she grows old never knowing how to evaluate where she is in life; never understanding what joy really is. I'm grateful for it. Samadrita in her excellent review began with: There's something about Japanese writers. They have the unparalleled ability of transforming an extremely ordinary scene from our everyday mundane lives into something magical and other-worldly. I thoroughly agree with her and that magical quality transforms what could have been a rather banal book into a great one. The book is divided into two stories both concerning young Japanese women. Kitchen Mikage Sakurai has lost her dearly beloved grandmother whom she had been living with, and she feels lost, alone and vulnerable. She’s now an orphan as there are no other relatives. The tide has gone out and she doesn’t know when or whether it will return. She knows she has to find a new apartment to live in but hesitates. So when a casual acquaintance, Yuichi Tanabe, who used to work part-time in her grandmother’s favourite flower shop, invites her to stay with him and his mother, Eriko, she agrees, especially when she sees the enormous sofa, which would be her bed, in the living room and finally the kitchen. She was a particular lover of kitchens. The place I like best in this world is the kitchen. No matter where it is, no matter what kind, if it’s the kitchen, if it’s a place where they make food, it’s fine with me. Ideally it should be well broken in. Lots of tea towels, dry and immaculate. White tile catching the light (ting! ting!). I truly empathized with Mikage from the beginning of this story to the end. A tale that on the surface appeared to be simple and even trite at times, but which soon uncovered a multi-faceted kaleidoscope of human emotions which I had never seen expressed in this way before. I was the sword in the scabbard firmly attached at Mikage’s side. I was her friend, her alter ego and champion in her quest to re-find herself, in fact her soul. I would protect her at all cost. Such interesting characters are to be found in this rather philosophical work, individuals in fact who I continued to think about after I finished the book. During the time that Mikage spends with Eriko and her son, Yuichi, the latter who appeared to be a quiet unassuming person, was slowly transformed into a soul-mate of Mikage which rather stunned her. She felt he knew her very soul. When you’re travelling, every night the air is clear and crisp, the mind serene. In any case, if nobody was waiting for me anywhere, yes, this serene life would be the thing. But I’m not free, I realized; I’ve been touched by Yuichi’s soul. How much easier it would be to stay away forever. Eriko in particular fascinated me. She was a transvestite, originally Yuichi’s father, then upon the death of his wife from cancer and thanks to plastic surgery, became his mother. She was also the owner of a gay bar. Eriko was such a vibrant individual, colourful and generous both emotionally and physically. She brought back purpose into Mikage’s life, but then tragedy struck again: Truly great people emit a light that warms the hearts of those around them. When that light has been put out, a heavy shadow of despair descends. Perhaps Eriko's was only a minor kind of greatness, but her light was sorely missed. The moon and light are also important themes that flow throughout this story. In addition, there are innumerable turns of phrase that are unforgettable but I particularly liked: Their faces shone like buddhas when they smiled., and The dirigible traversed the sky like a pale moonbeam, its tiny lights blinking on and off. When I finished this tale, I thought of love won and then lost, tragedy, pain, and suffering that I had just encountered but then beauty, hope and optimism are also there. What a marvellous mix. Moonlight Shadow ...Wherever he went, Hitoshi always had a little bell with him, attached to the case he kept his bus pass in. Even though it was just a trinket, something I gave him before we were in love, it was destined to remain at his side until the last. This story is also about a young woman called Satsuki who has lost her loved one, Hitoshi but it has more of a metaphysical feel to it. Yes, she has this same dreadful sense of loss as the earlier story. Hitoshi had a brother called Hiiragi, who had lost his girlfriend Yumiko at the same time as Hitoshi had been killed. Satsuki often goes to the bridge where she used to meet Hitoshi and one day she meets a young woman called Urara. And due to this meeting, Satsuki and even Hiiragi have these metaphysical experiences. This story is all rather dream-like and so different to Kitchen but still excellent in its own right. When I looked at this title I kept on thinking about the music of Mike Oldfield's Moonlight Shadow. In the preface, the author mentions that she wished to dedicate this song to Mr Jiro Yoshikawa, who had introduced this music to her, the inspiration for this story. Two exquisite stories and highly, highly recommended.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Zanna

    Now that I teach English as my main job I am more than ever aware of how language shapes and limits what can be expressed, how it makes and remakes the social world as it is made and remade. I have read few books from the Japanese, but I would wager I can tell such a text after reading a page! Perhaps it was the themes, not only the flavour of the language, that made this taste so distinctly Japanese to me. Quirky relationships, dramatic melancholy, organised and comfortable domesticity, defianc Now that I teach English as my main job I am more than ever aware of how language shapes and limits what can be expressed, how it makes and remakes the social world as it is made and remade. I have read few books from the Japanese, but I would wager I can tell such a text after reading a page! Perhaps it was the themes, not only the flavour of the language, that made this taste so distinctly Japanese to me. Quirky relationships, dramatic melancholy, organised and comfortable domesticity, defiance of convention, appreciation of food and eating, and a kind of pride of place, a cultural pride, chimed with my preconceptions. Anyway, I love this book, which makes writing look effortless (it isn't) and feels like a personal gift. Mikage, the protagonist, could hardly be more sympathetic as a lonely young adult struggling to overcome grief, and the relationships she is lucky enough to be pulled into nourished my heart as they did hers. The writing is spare, poetic, direct, and often original in its images. As a love story, this feels gloriously contemporary and cinematic. One of the important characters in the book, Eriko, is a transsexual woman, and Yoshimoto both has her speak her own truth and presents her in a very positive light as self-willed, resiliant, highly atttractive, extremely generous, and surrounded by loving friends. She is also a victim of anti-trans violence. Personally, I felt sad that both Mikage and her friend Yuichi are negative about vegetarian food! Otherwise, I might give it 5 stars.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ailsa

    Kitchen is a gentle, comforting novella about grief. How do we continue living in despair? Mikage and Yuichi's lives are brought together by death. They are on the cusp of falling in love or living as strangers. "I buried my face into his arm, gripping it fiercely. His warm sweater smelled of autumn leaves." Charming, ephemeral and semi-absurd. It's an appealing story in which the darkness is belied by a soft quirkiness. "I realised that the world did not exist for my benefit. It followed that the Kitchen is a gentle, comforting novella about grief. How do we continue living in despair? Mikage and Yuichi's lives are brought together by death. They are on the cusp of falling in love or living as strangers. "I buried my face into his arm, gripping it fiercely. His warm sweater smelled of autumn leaves." Charming, ephemeral and semi-absurd. It's an appealing story in which the darkness is belied by a soft quirkiness. "I realised that the world did not exist for my benefit. It followed that the ratio of pleasant to unpleasant things around me would not change. It wasn't up to me." "I got dressed to begin another day. Over and over, we begin again." Moonlight Shadow is the other short story in this edition and it is... short. It covers much the same ground as Kitchen and feels like an earlier work. It was too sparse for me, too blank. "There was an electric charge between our hearts, and its conduit was the sound of the bell." I wish I could read these in Japanese. I feel like a lot of ambiguity is being stripped by translation.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This is, hands down, the worst thing I've read in recent years. Let's start with the translation, because that is largely to blame for my utter disgust. The prose is terrible. Awkward, contradictory, inconsistent, hackneyed and immature. (Apparently not so in the original Japanese which has been hailed as poetic and lyrical. Even given my limited knowledge of Japanese, I can see how this would be the case.) This is what I would expect from an electronic translator, e.g. google-translate and its i This is, hands down, the worst thing I've read in recent years. Let's start with the translation, because that is largely to blame for my utter disgust. The prose is terrible. Awkward, contradictory, inconsistent, hackneyed and immature. (Apparently not so in the original Japanese which has been hailed as poetic and lyrical. Even given my limited knowledge of Japanese, I can see how this would be the case.) This is what I would expect from an electronic translator, e.g. google-translate and its ilk. Though the work has been proofread appropriately for a work destined for mass distribution, (the only glaring errors are an inability to distinguish between the colon and the semi-colon, and an army of commas deployed across each page splicing at random.) I suspect that it was never edited for content. There are simple errors in translation that can only result from using a bilingual electronic dictionary that provides a list of approximate synonyms rather than actual definitions. This is something I would expect from someone struggling to write in a second language, but it seems that Megan Backus is a native speaker of English. (I am guessing, though perhaps her first language is neither Japanese nor English?) Her errors are nothing less than sloppy, and the fact that they escaped the editing process is embarrassing. Words like 'suddenly' 'though' 'as if' 'ironically' and 'actually' are dispersed at random. The only attempt to acknowledge the intricate Japanese system of honorific and casual verb forms seems to be the use of swears paired with exclamation marks. Words in Japanese that have more than one possible English meaning are translated not only incorrectly, but inconsistently. (The Japanese '笑' could be 'smile' or 'laugh' in English. Maybe it is not a huge distinction, but when a character 'smiles' at something his friend says and then can't stop shaking it creates the impression of an unbalanced or perhaps epileptic person when, in the original, the character was simply laughing.) Even the friendly Japanese exclamatory 'えええ' has been translated with an inappropriate emotional volume. In response to a ringing phone: “[Mikage] answered it. 'Aaaah!' screamed a high, thin voice. 'Mikage, dear? How have you been?'” This accounts, I suspect, for a huge amount of the inconsistencies in the prose, and for characters that vacillate wildly between contradictory and inappropriate emotions. Japanese is a context dependent language. A translator who can't be bothered to acknowledge multi-sentence discourse is not ready to translate prose. Instead, she has given us characters who emote passionately, overreact wildly, and then are described as cold, hard-to-read, independent and stoic. (or vice versa) The only character that displays a realistic chain of response is the anachronistic potted pineapple (dead years before Mikage even meets the Tanabes, yet somehow still able to arouse in her memories of Eriko.) that blooms in the sun and then withers when over watered. At last. Consistency. Even worse is Backus' (irresponsible and thoughtless) total reliance on cliché to bridge the gap between languages. When it's not garbled and confusing, it is so purple it practically glows. While Yoshimoto’s description is recognized as fluid and poetic, Backus’ descriptions are like farts in an echo chamber: loud, repetitive, embarrassing and stinky. In the 40 pages of the second story, 'Moonlight Shadow', she describes the morning as 'blue' at least 10 times. (Blue mist, blue light, blue dawn etc.) So mindless are her clichés that on one page hell is a raging inferno, then later it is as cold as a winter's day. People smile and chat while being 'as still as a statue', and private thoughts occur 'straight from the heart'. Even while walking in a cold wind, a character squints his eyes 'as if against a cold wind'. Metaphors are as mixed as mixed-nuts and similes are as stale as stale bread. Imagination has been messily sacrificed on the altar of the cliché and even important cultural images like the moon and the night view are lost, drowned in a sea of 'indigo-coloured' sentimentality, running about 'like a chicken with its head cut off' 'in a raging tempest'. Blah. Mikage's existential angst mirrors my own upon encountering such prose: “From the bottom of my heart, I wanted to give up; I wanted to give up on living. There was no denying that tomorrow would come, and the day after tomorrow, and so next week, too. I never thought it would be this hard, but I would go on living in the midst of a gloomy depression, and that made me feel sick to the depths of my soul. In spite of the tempest raging within me, I walked the night path calmly. I wanted it to end, and quickly...”(she continues on for another meaty paragraph and then runs up ten flights of stairs in a sort of fugue that is simultaneously gloomy and energetic, whereas I just threw the book across the room in a fit of disgust.) If this is the much celebrated minimalist prose that won so many awards, I dread the thought of her attempt at detailed long fiction. So, is Backus solely to blame for this abomination of taste and style? I sadly think that she is not. Characters are systematically schizophrenic, detached, emotionally unreliable and static. Events unfold unevenly, and plot development occurs as an afterthought. Unnecessary details are introduced at random and motivation is left unaccounted for. The effect is jarring and profoundly unlikeable. From a cultural perspective I was embarrassed to see Japanese people represented uniformly as spoiled, privileged, emotionally isolated and selfish, devoid of effective introspection, and socially cold. The theme of loneliness and isolation comes across as a national character flaw rather than a universal aspect of grief and it makes me uncomfortable on a personal and political level. Looking at the back cover, I noticed that this book is supposed to be “about mothers, transsexuality, bereavement, kitchens, love and tragedy...” It is not. The only mother presented is actually a father (and the only family interaction that the reader witnesses is financial), and the central character's 'tragedy' is the loss of a grandmother to old age. As for transsexuality, the book isn't even about any sexuality in any form. Yoshimoto's prudery is so profound that the closest her characters come to acknowledging sex and desire is a veiled allusion to a 'double bed.' As for the transsexual character Eriko, her transition is presented as an impulsive reaction to the loss of a heterosexual partner. Indeed, in both stories cross-dressing is shown to be the result of a mind damaged by heterosexual heartbreak. There is no acknowledgment of homosexuality and non-stereotypical gender identity and Backus can't even be bothered to distinguish between the terms transsexuality and transvestism. Furthermore, (spoiler) Eriko's murder is only considered a tragedy insofar as it affects her loved ones with a sense of loss. They are all so selfishly self-absorbed [yes.] that they only bother to feel bad about the fact that they miss her, not that her life was sacrificed to a bruised male ego in a scene of sexualized violence and systematic homophobia. (It’s also unclear exactly how she died, as the translation suggests that her attacker was killed when she fought back. What?) That is all taken in stride, even by Eriko who anticipates her murder and, rather than turn to friends or the police for protection, sits down to write her will. She says, “lately I've been feeling that I might be in danger...if people I don't care for are attracted to me, I accept it as the wages of beauty.” Here is a profoundly relevant and pervasive social justice issue that is glossed over and turned into an exotic episode used to colour the barely disguised teenage angst of her main characters. The closest she comes to addressing issues of transphobia and the marginalization of the queer community is when she relates how one of Eriko's employees cried after being harassed on the train, but she quickly explains that this is because she is unusually 'sensitive'. All told, this book does nothing to challenge Japanese beliefs that homosexuality and transexuality are a source of superficial entertainment and it actually enforces norms of homophobia and violence against women. I couldn't like this book less.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nidhi Singh

    If there is a colour for the prose of Banana Yoshimoto, it is blue. Reading ‘Kitchen’ is like walking in the clear crisp air of a blue night in Tokyo. She works beautifully with surrealistic imagery, with artless simplicity. The images of the night, the houses in the streetlight, the colour of the sunset and the sky, the moonlight in the kitchen transpire again and again in the beautifully sparse writing until one breathes completely in the dreamlike quality of it. These images do not convey the If there is a colour for the prose of Banana Yoshimoto, it is blue. Reading ‘Kitchen’ is like walking in the clear crisp air of a blue night in Tokyo. She works beautifully with surrealistic imagery, with artless simplicity. The images of the night, the houses in the streetlight, the colour of the sunset and the sky, the moonlight in the kitchen transpire again and again in the beautifully sparse writing until one breathes completely in the dreamlike quality of it. These images do not convey the sinister, furtive, darkness of night: it is but the beautiful melancholy of night where dreams and reality conflate. The loneliness of the characters flows and merges with these images. How evocative a description of pain, loneliness, separation, and human mortality! Death and loss can truly be a binding force for people, drawing them closer, reshaping their sensitivities, in coming to terms with their loss. And there is the knowledge that no one can understand your loss except for someone who has been through a similar sadness. Yoshimoto’s characters, in their unusual ordinariness, adopt a number of contrivances for a liberation from their grief. Some change homes, some change their gender. They cook extravagant meals, find shelter in some secluded monastery with a waterfall or in the simple domesticity of the Kitchen. Some keep the grief hidden so that it doesn't take the form of perceptible reality. Memories are shining and bright, and they live on but they also keep sucking their bearer away from the present. Moving on gets difficult. And it’s a pain in itself to come to a delivery where one learns to take care of a memory as a memory; something that has passed and doesn’t belong to the present. "I'll never be able to be here again. As the minutes slide by, I move on. The flow of time is something I cannot stop. I haven't a choice. I go. One caravan has stopped, another starts up. There are people I've yet to meet, others I'll never see again. People who are gone before you know it, people who are just passing through. Even as we exchange hellos, they seem to grow transparent. I must keep living with the flowing river before my eyes."

  14. 5 out of 5

    Inderjit Sanghera

    Japan has always comes across as something of a dichotomy to me; on the one hand it is deeply socially conservatives and shows a deep reverence of the past and its traditions, yet on the other hand it has innumerable quirks and eccentricities and is home to a vast array of oddballs. Oddballs would be a good way of surmising 'Kitchen' in a single word; Yoshimoto explores the lives of various oddballs, from ethereally beautiful transgender women to grown men wearing girls school uniforms in the st Japan has always comes across as something of a dichotomy to me; on the one hand it is deeply socially conservatives and shows a deep reverence of the past and its traditions, yet on the other hand it has innumerable quirks and eccentricities and is home to a vast array of oddballs. Oddballs would be a good way of surmising 'Kitchen' in a single word; Yoshimoto explores the lives of various oddballs, from ethereally beautiful transgender women to grown men wearing girls school uniforms in the style of a sailor, Yoshimoto suffuses her exploration of loss and melancholy with character studies of these misfits; instead of concentrating solely on what makes them different, Yoshimoto concentrates on what makes them human, imbuing their inner lives with depth and allowing them to become greater than the stereotypes and cliched which others may pin on them. Eriko, the heroine of 'Kitchen' is a fully realised human being, a person who has been shaped by both the joys and tragedies life brings them and although she is eventually murdered, in the main part due to her being a transgender woman, Yoshimoto chooses to concentrate on her human qualities-for the reader, as seen via the eyes of the narrator, Yoshimoto is a supernaturally beautiful woman fully of tenderness and not a woman wholly weighed down by the prejudices she experiences. In addition to this the second key theme of 'Kitchen' is about loss and coping with it. The narrator of 'Moonlight Shadow' is, like most of the other characters, feeling the impact of loss and the sense of displacement it engenders and her message is deeply humanistic-it is via other people that we overcome our sorrows, via experiencing life that we over-come the obstacles which come our way. The narrative itself is replete with many small, yet beautiful images, as Yoshimoto creates an almost idyllic Japan, a Japan of green tea reflected against the floor against the sun-light, or of the sparkling atmosphere of a nondescript kitchen at night;  "The river was roaring, sweeping along everything and anything in its way on a stream o white foam. The wind it gave off blew cold and seemed to suck the perspiration from my face. A half-moon shone serenely in the still-brisk March sky. My breaths came out in puffs of white." Suffused with a gentle, almost irridescent beauty and shot through with a sadness mixed with hope, 'Kitchen' is a wonderfully written collection of stories with a profound, yet light, message.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Fabian

    2 romantic tomes that search for goodness and love in human stuff like death and food. Her writing flashes by, leaving dewy nectar dripping from your lips...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    I did a quick audit of my Japanese cultural input and came up with the following : MOVIES Tokyo Story – beautiful acknowledged masterpiece Nobody Knows – great indy Kikujiro – worth watching Love Exposure – quite insane, probably brilliant, unmissable, but you should be warned that it’s quite insane Visitor Q – er, probably avoid this one! Really gross. Seven Samurai – may be the greatest film ever, if there is such a thing WESTERN PERSPECTIVES Babel – brilliant film, but the Tokyo part is strange & I did a quick audit of my Japanese cultural input and came up with the following : MOVIES Tokyo Story – beautiful acknowledged masterpiece Nobody Knows – great indy Kikujiro – worth watching Love Exposure – quite insane, probably brilliant, unmissable, but you should be warned that it’s quite insane Visitor Q – er, probably avoid this one! Really gross. Seven Samurai – may be the greatest film ever, if there is such a thing WESTERN PERSPECTIVES Babel – brilliant film, but the Tokyo part is strange & uncomfortable Lost in Translation – what planet was everyone else on? This was a snoozefest. If you haven’t seen it, count yourself fortunate NOVELS In the Miso Soup – Ryu Murakami – yeah, I liked this A Personal matter – Oe – yeah, I HATED this The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by the other Marukami guy – I LOVED this because it was so easy to parody and gave me my top scoring review (While I was reading it was a different story) MUSIC Absolutely NOTHING And now to add to this very small Japanese input, Kitchen, a tender sprig of a novel. It was kind of goofy, kind of nice, kind of weirdly translated. Kind of sad. Had a transgendered person and a transvestite. Had a lot of food. If I write any more of this review it’ll be longer than the novel. But basically, I need more Japanese stuff. Recommendations welcome.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    My reading of this short work might have been snake-bit from the go. In the first I’m regrettably tinny eared when it comes to stories of romance and lost love. I also have no fundamental understanding of the Japanese language in its native form, other than its nuances successfully translated to English run the spectrum from Aflred Brinbaum to Jay Rubin – translators of Murakami’s works so very different that their output feels like two completely different authors. So perhaps it was the transla My reading of this short work might have been snake-bit from the go. In the first I’m regrettably tinny eared when it comes to stories of romance and lost love. I also have no fundamental understanding of the Japanese language in its native form, other than its nuances successfully translated to English run the spectrum from Aflred Brinbaum to Jay Rubin – translators of Murakami’s works so very different that their output feels like two completely different authors. So perhaps it was the translation, maybe the subject matter and the narrative, but try as I might my attempts to cull the magic from this work (as my more discerning GR chums have before me) were unfruitful. I’m not ready to give up on Yoshimoto. Perhaps I’ll be a better reader of one of her other works. 8th book read of 500 Great Books by Women

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    "Dream kitchens. I will have countless ones, in my heart or in reality. Or in my travels. Alone, with a crowd of people, with one other person- in all the many places I will live. I know that there will be so many more." It was late at night as I started to read "Kitchen" with a cup of coffee in my own Kitchen. The book contains "Kitchen" and Moonlight Shadow" and both stories handle about lost and grieve. I didn't want to drop the book without finishing it but was too sleepy to continue in one go "Dream kitchens. I will have countless ones, in my heart or in reality. Or in my travels. Alone, with a crowd of people, with one other person- in all the many places I will live. I know that there will be so many more." It was late at night as I started to read "Kitchen" with a cup of coffee in my own Kitchen. The book contains "Kitchen" and Moonlight Shadow" and both stories handle about lost and grieve. I didn't want to drop the book without finishing it but was too sleepy to continue in one go. Banana Yoshimoto's writing style is of refined simplicity and that "Kitchen" isn't just a short love story but deeper than it seems got me hooked. It won't be the only book I read from her...

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bắp

    Banana Yoshimoto là tác giả văn học mà mình rất thường xuyên giới thiệu cho bạn bè. Văn chương của bà khá gần gũi, nhẹ nhàng nhưng không kém phần day dứt. "Kitchen" là cuốn gây cho mình ấn tượng nhiều nhất. Thực sự thì thứ ấn tượng đầu tiên đối với mình không phải giọng văn, cốt truyện mà là xây dựng những nhân vật hơi "dị" như người đàn ông chuyển giới thành phụ nữ sau khi vợ mất hay cậu trai mặc đồng phục nữ sinh tới trường sau khi bạn gái mất. Rất lạ thường. Không hiểu sao nhưng mình rất dễ bị Banana Yoshimoto là tác giả văn học mà mình rất thường xuyên giới thiệu cho bạn bè. Văn chương của bà khá gần gũi, nhẹ nhàng nhưng không kém phần day dứt. "Kitchen" là cuốn gây cho mình ấn tượng nhiều nhất. Thực sự thì thứ ấn tượng đầu tiên đối với mình không phải giọng văn, cốt truyện mà là xây dựng những nhân vật hơi "dị" như người đàn ông chuyển giới thành phụ nữ sau khi vợ mất hay cậu trai mặc đồng phục nữ sinh tới trường sau khi bạn gái mất. Rất lạ thường. Không hiểu sao nhưng mình rất dễ bị lôi cuốn bởi những câu chuyện liên quan tới nấu ăn và bếp núc. "Kitchen" là 1 ví dụ, "Lưỡi" là 1 ví dụ khác :3 Ngoài ra thì mình còn rất mê xem MasterChef, năm sau chắc cũng sẽ đi thi. Mình rất giỏi món rau luộc, mỗi vòng sẽ luộc 1 loại rau, cứ thế chẳng mấy mà vô địch :3 :3

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gayathri

    Read the full review at Elgee Writes Kitchen begins with Mikage Sakurai grieving the death of her grandmother, in their kitchen. Yuichi and his mother Eriko takes her in as she has no other family left. Mikage throws herself into cooking and food, which becomes part of her heart and dreams. Eriko is a transvestite, who runs a gay night club and lives with her son Yuichi who studies at Uni. He was a man for a long time until his wife died and then he changes 'her face and her everything' with the Read the full review at Elgee Writes Kitchen begins with Mikage Sakurai grieving the death of her grandmother, in their kitchen. Yuichi and his mother Eriko takes her in as she has no other family left. Mikage throws herself into cooking and food, which becomes part of her heart and dreams. Eriko is a transvestite, who runs a gay night club and lives with her son Yuichi who studies at Uni. He was a man for a long time until his wife died and then he changes 'her face and her everything' with the help of operations. The busy mother - son gets closer to Miakge through her home cooked dinners, until Mikage moves away to pursue her culinary dreams. A few months later Eriko is murdered by a smitten man. Tides change and it is now Yuichi that has to face the loss and grief. How Mikage helps Yuichi to cope with the loss and how her passion for food keeps the friends sane forms the rest of the story in Kitchen. Kitchen is followed by a shorter tale named Moonlight Shadow in which the theme of grief and loss of beloved ones continue. Satsuki lost her boy friend Hitsohi to an unforeseen road accident. She picks up running to push her sorrows away. Hitoshi's brother who lost his girlfriend in the same accident dresses in her favorite costume as a cope up mechanism. Satsuki meets Urara who tells her a way that can help her find a closure. Read the story to know if they find what they seek. Yoshimoto's Kitchen is full of eccentric characters and I can't think of a better word than weird right now to describe the plot. The leads in both the tales attempt to seek hope and overcoming of their destitution after the death. But how they attain that is way different. Though both the stories are very minimal and to the point, I loved them like a fresh breath of air. Some stories make us long for more but Kitchen in all its incompleteness felt complete. I don't want to know what Satsuki or Yuichi, who stayed in my mind long after I finished reading, did anymore because I know (and hope) they will be better. Here is where I am lost. I dunno if I love or hate Yoshimoto's writing. There were places when the writing felt right and there were places that were just off. I might have to read more of Yoshimoto's to conclude whether it was the writing or the translation that failed to make me love it. Or maybe that was how the book was intended to be. Things that worked for me The simplistic narration talks about ordinary people leading a mundane life but had profound effect on me. Yoshimoto's writing is not polished or lyrical, in fact it does not even mince words (but that might be just the translation), yet the simple prose hits the point at most places. I loved the usage of Kitchen as a metaphor and letting it play a character in the story. Things that didn't work for me Kitchen is not a plot driven novel. And if you are looking for one with lots of twists and turns, you will be severely disappointed. I felt the translation might have been off at places but I am not sure if it was intentional. I am still not sure if the usage of transvestite and transgender is accurate. I think they were used interchangeably, I might be wrong. Bottomline You may like this one or not, but I am sure it will leave a lasting memory either way, just like it did for me. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon |

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tuấn Lalarme

    Hôm rày có cô gái nhắn tin cho tôi. Cô ấy hỏi nhưng cũng là tự trả lời rằng liệu sự tương tác giữa con người khó khăn vậy sao, liệu những tiểu tinh cầu mà mỗi người đại diện có gặp nhau? Trong câu chữ của cô ấy, là sự trách móc, vì tôi đã không trả lời tin nhắn đầu tiên. Quả thực, tôi không thể dành hết thời gian để trả lời những tin nhắn không có chủ đích rõ ràng, ngoài những lời nói mông lung, đượm buồn, như muốn trút bớt đi nỗi lòng mà không cần tôi đáp lại. Quả thực, chẳng bao giờ dễ dàng gì Hôm rày có cô gái nhắn tin cho tôi. Cô ấy hỏi nhưng cũng là tự trả lời rằng liệu sự tương tác giữa con người khó khăn vậy sao, liệu những tiểu tinh cầu mà mỗi người đại diện có gặp nhau? Trong câu chữ của cô ấy, là sự trách móc, vì tôi đã không trả lời tin nhắn đầu tiên. Quả thực, tôi không thể dành hết thời gian để trả lời những tin nhắn không có chủ đích rõ ràng, ngoài những lời nói mông lung, đượm buồn, như muốn trút bớt đi nỗi lòng mà không cần tôi đáp lại. Quả thực, chẳng bao giờ dễ dàng gì để những kẻ sống nội tâm, chìm trong những tinh cầu của mình tương tác với nhau, nếu nó không phải là sự sắp đặt của số phận, những chuỗi nhân duyên và tình cờ. Như cô gái yêu nhà bếp trong tác phẩm Kitchen của nhà văn Banana Yoshimoto đối với chàng trai đã từng không quen, mà nếu không vì người bà của cô gái mất, thì chắc hẳn họ cứ lặng lẽ ở hai tinh cầu tiêng biệt mà chẳng thể chạm nhau. Thế giới mà bà Banana xây dựng trong Kitchen thật cô đơn, mà cũng thật gần gũi. Những câu văn tiết chế để tìm kiếm sự tối giản đến tận cùng để thấu triệt nỗi cô đơn của mỗi bản thể người trong xã hội hiện đại. Tôi thích nhất Kitchen ở chi tiết về những cốc trà mà nhân vật uống. Nếu cafe dành cho công việc và bạn bè sôi nổi, thì trà mang lại cảm giác cô đơn nhưng ấm áp. Những đêm buồn thiu, chẳng có gì sưởi ấm ta tốt bằng những tách trà, một chút đường, một chút mật ong cho thêm vào cốc trà Earl Grey, hay trà mạn... Mang lại sự thư thái đến kì lạ. Nhờ những tách trà mà nhân vật đi qua sự cô đơn dễ dàng hơn, dù buồn và chất chứa những nỗi niềm thật khó chia sẻ. Tôi nghĩ có thể là thời điểm, có thể là duyên chưa đủ, có thể cần một cú hích, mà trong truyện của Banana là những cái chết. Hay như cô gái ở trên, người nhắn tin cho tôi, đó là việc cô ấy nhắn cho tôi tin thứ hai có ý tự trách bản thân, và trách tôi. Khiến tôi không thể im lặng. Vậy là những tiểu tinh cầu, ở cấp độ giản dị nhất, đã chạm vào nhau. Như tôi chạm vào Kitchen, vào một đêm thật buồn, cô nhóc nhắc đến nó, và tự nhiên tôi muốn đọc. Tôi đã luôn luôn cảm thấy không hợp với những nhà văn nữ, cho đến khi đọc quyển này. Có lẽ vì nội tâm của câu chuyện, của nhân vật, và của bản thân tác giả, thứ nội tâm mang đầy dằn vặt và cô đơn nhưng dịu dàng đủ để thấy đời thật đẹp, cho con người ta muốn sống tiếp, dù cuộc đời muốn xô gục ts nhiều thế nào.

  22. 5 out of 5

    ruzmarì

    "Kitchen" is a great little novella, and reading it is like having an old friend come to stay with you for a few days out of the blue. That one friend who had just the perfect quirky turn of phrase, the oddly poetic outlook on things like noodles and shoelace-tips. Yoshimoto's writing has matured since "Kitchen," but this story remains fresh and thoughtful, charming and simple and deep. My favorite part of the book, though, isn't the title novella but the one included after it, "Moonlight Shadow "Kitchen" is a great little novella, and reading it is like having an old friend come to stay with you for a few days out of the blue. That one friend who had just the perfect quirky turn of phrase, the oddly poetic outlook on things like noodles and shoelace-tips. Yoshimoto's writing has matured since "Kitchen," but this story remains fresh and thoughtful, charming and simple and deep. My favorite part of the book, though, isn't the title novella but the one included after it, "Moonlight Shadow." The story is tight, the characters compelling, the noodles savory. "Moonlight Shadow" is a brief work about grief and nostalgia, but also about kindness, and about how you just go on because you have to, and about the things you learn as you step further away from grief. The grief of leaving grief, I guess. Even if "Kitchen" doesn't enchant you (which it should), the second story alone is worth buying the book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hippo dari Hongkong

    maap kalo tulisan ini sepertinya gak nyambung ama bukuna "Ada buku EA?" ... Inget buku ini otomatis inget kelakuan seorang rekan durjana yang bisa bikin malu sesama rekan durjana. Ternyata ketua dewan pembina jaduler lebih durjana dari gw :)) Buku ini didapat dilapak buku bekas Dewi Sartika dalam rangka Reuni Durjana sekaligus merayakan ultah seorang durjana yang sudah di rancang sejak awal bulan atas permintaan seorang durjana yang bermukim di Tangerang. Jam 12an nyampe di lapak buku Dewi Sartika maap kalo tulisan ini sepertinya gak nyambung ama bukuna "Ada buku EA?" ... Inget buku ini otomatis inget kelakuan seorang rekan durjana yang bisa bikin malu sesama rekan durjana. Ternyata ketua dewan pembina jaduler lebih durjana dari gw :)) Buku ini didapat dilapak buku bekas Dewi Sartika dalam rangka Reuni Durjana sekaligus merayakan ultah seorang durjana yang sudah di rancang sejak awal bulan atas permintaan seorang durjana yang bermukim di Tangerang. Jam 12an nyampe di lapak buku Dewi Sartika sang lelaki durjana bersama durjana magang ternyata telah nyampe duluan Ternyata dua rekan durjana tersayang ntu lagi seru2nya nawar buku yang diincer. Sang Durjana senior sibuk megang dua buku sementara sang durjana magang sibuk nawar buku puisi Remy Sylado yang segede gaban, The Name of the Rose nya Eco, buku Stephen King. Sang durjana magang sepertinya sudah putus asa karena penjualna bersikukuh di harga 80rb untuk buku Remy Sylado. Gw juga udah ngincer bbrp buku seh sebenerna tp gak ikutan nawar. Lah, yang jaga lapak bukan yang punya lapakna jadi pasti ngasi harga mahal percuma ditawar juga, buang2 energi aja. Ni dua durjana ini langsung aja maen tawar, jelas dikasi mahal :)) Sambil nunggu yang punya lapak, sang durjana senior sukses nyabet 4 komik klasik tebel Mahabarata karya RA Kosasih seharga 100rebu saja dari lapak sebelah yang langsung dibujuk oleh durjanawati buat jadi "tukang tawar" buat buku komik tebel yang hanya dilepas dengan harga 45 rebu sama penjualna di lapak ujung. Sementara sang durjana magang sudah menyerah nawar buku Remy Sylado meski masih kliatan mupeng. Tak lama kemudian yang punya lapak datang, begitu dia datang gw langsung nyabet tiga buku yang udah diincer dr tadi, setelah tawar2an ahirnya dilepas dengan harga 50 rebu sajah. Begitu transaksi kelar langsung ngelirik nyuruh si durjana magang buat nawar lagi buku Remy Sylado. Dia langsung semangat lagi dan sang pedagang langsung "dikeroyok" rame2 sehigga ntu buku ahirna dilepas 65 rebu setelah tawar2an seru. Setelah masing2 mendapatkan buku inceran masing tiba2 si durjanawan nanya ama pedagangnya "Ada buku EA? jualan gak?" Buset dah, udah nanya EA, kenceng lagi sang pedagangnya langsung tersipu-sipu malu dan menjawab sambil menggelengkan kepala "Waduh, gak jualan yang gitu disini." Reaksi sang durjanawati dia langsung "menyingkir" dengan pindah ke lapak majalah dan si durjana magang cuman bisa "prihatin" sambil menggeleng-gelengkan kepala sambil ngusap2 jidatnya :)) gw yang kebetulan tepat disebelah dia langsung mendelik sebelum buru2 pasang wajah malaikat. "Wah sayang," sang durjana senior menggumam kecewa,"sayah butuh buat penelitian." Heh? penelitian? penelitian apaan? gundul mu bikin alasan yang masuk akal dikit kek, buat nostalgia kek, buat sesepuh jaduler aka Tomo kek, pesenan temen kek, buat adik kek Begini, jaman dulu kala alias jaman BC teknik beli EA itu kita ditawarin/dideketin ama penjualna. pasang tampang bego ato bingung di deket lapakna. biasana sang pedagang nanti mendekat sambil celingukan kanan kiri sambil berbisik.. "EA.. EA.. baru nih" dan biasana kalo emang niat yang dideketin ikutan bisik2.. "berapaan" seperti itulah. trus biasana pindah ke pojokan buat transaksi. Ini gw juga katanya ya :-" "Udah lama gak nyimpen buku EA, kalo NC sih masih ada." "wah ada NC? mana?" dan sang penjual pun nunjukin tunpukan buku2 dekil yang ternyata dibawahna ada "koleksi" NC dan sang durjanawan pun semangat ngubek2 buku NC Tak ada EA, NC pun jadi... ckckck Rekan durjanawati sepertinya jadi teringat sesuatu begitu melihat buku NC "siapa diantara kalian yang ngirim paket buku NC tanpa nama pengirim ke gue? ayo ngaku!" "bukan gw loh." "gw juga nggak." setelah milih2 yang cover-nya paling "oke" dia ngembat dua buku NC sambil tersenyum puas :)) "Obsesi" dia soal EA masih berlanjut, makin parah. di tiap lapak dia nanyain buku EA, duh. tak cuma di situ. ketika perjalanan berlanjut ke Cikapundung sama aja, tiap lapak ditanya buku EA. Reaksi pedagang macem2, ada yang bengong karena emang gak tau ada yang nyengir kuda, ada yang tersipu-sipu sambil istighfar dalam hati :)) mungkin beberapa pedagang sempet mikir, ni orang idup di jaman mana yah? udah jaman internet ama dvd masih nyari2 EA. Jawaban dia keknya tetep "buat penelitian." Sepertinya obsesi dia soal EA berhubungan dengan masa lalunya. dia masih keki waktu masih jaman mudaan dikit dia sempet maen ke Cikapundung abis sholat jumat masih pake kopiah dan baju koko, begitu masuk ke cikapundung langsung dideketin penjual buku sambil bisik2.. "EA bang.. EA." dia keki soalna meski tampil bak orang alim tetep aja di tawarin EA :)) jadi sepertinya dia kepengen "balas dendam" dengan langsung nanyain bukuna ke tiap lapak meski gagal dapet EA si durjanawan itu masih bisa ngembat buku Madam Curie yang lagi2 segede gaban terbitan taun 50an yang ejaannya bikin mumet kondisi bisa dibilang 90% plus buku dekil Pending Emas seharga 50 rebu. wah lagi bener2 napsu berburu buku sepertinya dia. jadi gimana soal buku ini, yah gak tau lah.. gw pan belon baca masih mark as to read :D

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mahsa

    یوشیموتو نویسندهایه که به زیبایی از حقایق قابل لمس مینویسه؛ شاید قبل از خوندنِ داستانهاش حواستون به اون حقایق نباشه، اما همینکه خطی رو خوندید، همینکه از جمله ای عبور کردید... یه لحظه مکث میکنید. مکث میکنید چون اون جمله رو خوب فهمیدید، چون قبلا با قلبتون لمسش کردید. و لبخند میزنید به درکِ قشنگی که از اون جمله دارید و حالا اون درک به قشنگی روبروی شما بین کلمات جای گرفته. But I was afraid—terribly afraid—to even hope for such happiness. تِم آشپزخانه ماها همه یه مکانِ به خصوص داریم که وقتی اونجا ب یوشیموتو نویسنده‌ایه که به زیبایی از حقایق قابل لمس می‌نویسه؛ شاید قبل از خوندنِ ‌داستان‌هاش حواستون به اون حقایق نباشه، اما همین‌که خطی رو خوندید، همین‌که از جمله‌ ای عبور کردید... یه لحظه مکث می‌کنید. مکث می‌کنید چون اون جمله رو خوب فهمیدید، چون قبلا با قلب‌تون لمس‌ش کردید. و لبخند می‌زنید به درکِ قشنگی که از اون جمله دارید و حالا اون درک به قشنگی روبروی شما بین کلمات جای گرفته. But I was afraid—terribly afraid—to even hope for such happiness. تِم آشپزخانه ماها همه یه مکانِ به خصوص داریم که وقتی اونجا باشیم، احساس آرامش کنیم. منظورم یه جای دنجِ؛ مثل یه اتاق خاص، یه گوشه ی خاص از خونه، یا یه نقطه ی خاص زیر سقف آسمون. "آشپزخانه" در داستان اول این کتاب، جاییه که شخصیت اصلی داستان آرامش‌ش رو اونجا پیدا می‌کنه. عجیبه، ولی باورش خیلی آسونه. چون به‌قشنگی توسط شخصیت اول از این آرامش خاص می‌شنویم و‌ کم‌کم باورش می‌کنیم. و می‌تونم به یقین بگم با خوندن دو‌ کتاب از این نویسنده ی ژاپنی، خواننده عمیقا می‌تونه خودش رو در فضایی با فرهنگ ژاپنی حس کنه و این لذت‌بخشه. داستان آشپزخانه کتاب، دو داستان تقریبا کوتاه و مجزا رو روایت می‌کنه. مثل کتاب قبل این نویسنده، شروع هر دو داستان با عبور شخصیت از یه بحران شروع میشه. بحران تلخی که رخ داده و حالا باید ازش گذر کرد. و عجیب اینجاست که هر دو داستان این کتاب عمق بی اندازه ی خودشون رو داشتن، و با اینکه داستان دوم خیلی کوتاه‌تر از داستان اول بود، الان تمام چیزی که می‌تونم بهش فکر کنم داستان دومه. ‌ در این ‌اثرِ یوشیموتو هم مثل کتاب قبل، در گوشه‌ای از داستان عناصر افسانه ای و جادویی وجود داشت؛ عناصری که شاید حتی جادویی نباشن، که شاید کاملا واقعی و عادی باشن، اما این شک وجود داره... که اون‌ آدم، یه وهم بود؟ که اون چند ساعت یه رویا نبود؟ مرز بین خواب و بیداری کجاست؟ و در کنار این ابهام، یه ویژِن هست... یه جور الهام، رویا، یه بصیرت خاص که من اون رو نقطه اوج داستان‌ها می‌دیدم. بصیرتی که آغاز میشه و نگاهی رو تغییر میده. و همه ی این‌ها در کنار هم، باعث میشن بیشتر و بیشتر از خوندن این نویسنده ی ژاپنی لذت ببرم. چون غافلگیری‌هاش با اینکه کوچیکن اما دلچسبن، چون نگاه‌ش به اتفاقاتی که رخ میدن زیبا و بی‌اندازه قابل درکه. و چون قرار نیست در پایان داستان‌هاش اتفاق خارق‌العاده‌ای روایت بشه، بلکه قراره خواننده به همراه شخصیت‌ها رشد کنه، قراره پابه‌پای شخصیت‌ها قدرت روبرو شدن با «زندگی» رو پیدا کنه و با داستانی که براش نوشته شده کنار بیاد نه بیشتر. Truly happy memories always live on, shining. Over time, one by one, they come back to life.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Vishnu

    I have observed that some of my favourite books have been those I've read in a single sitting. Yoshimoto's book, at 150 pages, is such a good length for a read of that sort. It would be criminal for me to write too much for a book which itself is so minimal. And yet, it is such a powerful work. There is a very basic tendency of humans to be attracted to tragedy, to heartbreak, to grave sadness for such emotions often triumph over the most gleeful joys. For Yoshimoto, death, that most claustropho I have observed that some of my favourite books have been those I've read in a single sitting. Yoshimoto's book, at 150 pages, is such a good length for a read of that sort. It would be criminal for me to write too much for a book which itself is so minimal. And yet, it is such a powerful work. There is a very basic tendency of humans to be attracted to tragedy, to heartbreak, to grave sadness for such emotions often triumph over the most gleeful joys. For Yoshimoto, death, that most claustrophobic of silences opens up great possibilities into vistas beyond. I will leave you with a line from this book which fits here more than my own - "While what had happened was utterly amazing, it didn't seem so out of the ordinary, really. It was at once a miracle and the most natural thing in the world " This sums up Yoshimoto and Kitchen. Not too much is different from our own quotidian lives, but she manages to cull out of such existence (or the lack of it) a celebration so special that the last enemy she defeats is death.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Fran Sobrido

    Es el primer libro de literatura japonesa que leo y me ha gustado mucho. De hecho, creo que lo recomendaría bastante como forma de introducirse en ella ya que es muy sencillo en la narración. Estamos ante dos historias (Kitchen y Moonlight Shadow) en las que la autora nos adentra en temas como la soledad, el impacto de la muerte y las relaciones de amor, narrándonos las vivencias de dos mujeres, Mikage y Satsuki, que terminan encontrándose en estas situaciones. Se trata también someramente la cu Es el primer libro de literatura japonesa que leo y me ha gustado mucho. De hecho, creo que lo recomendaría bastante como forma de introducirse en ella ya que es muy sencillo en la narración. Estamos ante dos historias (Kitchen y Moonlight Shadow) en las que la autora nos adentra en temas como la soledad, el impacto de la muerte y las relaciones de amor, narrándonos las vivencias de dos mujeres, Mikage y Satsuki, que terminan encontrándose en estas situaciones. Se trata también someramente la cuestión de la transexualidad aunque, como veremos, de una forma un tanto extraña. Aunque a mí las dos historias me han gustado mucho, creo que éste no es el típico libro que pueda gustar a todo el mundo. Si buscas mucha acción o una trama muy desarrollada, éste no es tu libro. Para mí lo importante de esta obra no es tanto lo que te cuenta, sino más bien cómo te lo cuenta: utiliza una forma de escritura muy sencilla pero a la vez muy atractiva y elegante. Algunas frases que me han parecido destacables: -"El mundo no existe sólo para mí. El porcentaje de cosas amargas que me sucederán no variará. Yo no puedo decidirlo". -"Hay diferentes tipos de personas en este mundo, ¿verdad? A algunos me resulta difícil comprenderlos. Hay personas que viven en la sordidez más absoluta. Otras intentan llamar la atención de los demás haciendo a sabiendas lo que les repugna, hasta que se encuentran acorraladas... yo me arriesgo y vivo con alegría. Soy hermosa. Yo brillo." -"Las personas no se dejan vencer por las circunstancias o por las fuerzas que vienen de fuera, sino por las que nacen en el interior de sí mismos". NOTA: 9/10

  27. 4 out of 5

    მინდია არაბული

    მიკაგეს მოუკვდა ბებია მიკაგეს არავინ დარჩა ამ სამყაროში. მიკაგემ აღმოაჩინა, რომ ყველანაირი ბმა ადამიანებთან გაწყდა და ეს უეცარ კომფორტს განიჭებს. თავიდან საერთოდ не выходи из комнаты ხდება, სამზარეულოდან უფრო ზუსტად. მიყუჟულია მიკაგე მაცივართან და უყურებს, როგორ ხდება სამზარეულოს გარეთ რაღაცები, ხოლო შიგნით დროა გაჩერებული. სამზარეულო ლამის გაპიროვნებული აქტორია წიგნში,მიკაგეს მყუდრო იზოლაციის მეტაფორა. წიგნი ვითარდება მიკაგეს სამყაროში პატარ-პატარა ელემენტების შემოცურების გზით, ისეთების, როგორიცაა მიკაგეს მოუკვდა ბებია მიკაგეს არავინ დარჩა ამ სამყაროში. მიკაგემ აღმოაჩინა, რომ ყველანაირი ბმა ადამიანებთან გაწყდა და ეს უეცარ კომფორტს განიჭებს. თავიდან საერთოდ не выходи из комнаты ხდება, სამზარეულოდან უფრო ზუსტად. მიყუჟულია მიკაგე მაცივართან და უყურებს, როგორ ხდება სამზარეულოს გარეთ რაღაცები, ხოლო შიგნით დროა გაჩერებული. სამზარეულო ლამის გაპიროვნებული აქტორია წიგნში,მიკაგეს მყუდრო იზოლაციის მეტაფორა. წიგნი ვითარდება მიკაგეს სამყაროში პატარ-პატარა ელემენტების შემოცურების გზით, ისეთების, როგორიცაა მცენარეების სუნთქვა, დიდი დივანი და ა.შ, რომლებიც არათუ დაშლილ, არამედ ერთ ადამიანამდე დასულ სამყაროს თავიდან აგებენ და ეს პროცესი ძალიანაც სასიამოვნოდ საყურებელია.(საკურებელი :v ) იგივე მოტივები იოშიმოტოს Moonlight shadowშიც მეორდება, სხვა სიტყვებით, როგორ შეიძლება მოიქცე, როცა შენი ყოველდღიურობის უდიდესი ნაწილი ქრება. ჰოდა თუ ვინმემ აქამდე წაიკითხა ეს რევიუ, ამ ძალიან ფრთხილად ლამაზი წიგნის წასაკითხადაც ეყოფა დრო და მოთმენა :დ

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Any time I try to read Japanese novels I feel like I'm missing something. In Kitchen, as in the few other Japanese novels I've read, the prose seems flat and spare. I'm beginning to think it's not a question of translation and more a question of a different writing style. Mikage, a young woman, is left alone when her grandmother dies, following the deaths of her parents and grandfather. She ends up being sort of adopted by the Tanabe family, a young man her age and his transsexual (m to f) mothe Any time I try to read Japanese novels I feel like I'm missing something. In Kitchen, as in the few other Japanese novels I've read, the prose seems flat and spare. I'm beginning to think it's not a question of translation and more a question of a different writing style. Mikage, a young woman, is left alone when her grandmother dies, following the deaths of her parents and grandfather. She ends up being sort of adopted by the Tanabe family, a young man her age and his transsexual (m to f) mother. Exactly why they decide to take her in or how this is appropriate is not really clear to me. Also, I felt like I was missing out on a lot of cultural subtext as the relationship between Mikage and the younger Tanabe develops. I don't think my general confusion is the author's fault, but rather my lack of knowledge about Japanese culture and literature.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ste Pic

    giudizi in un haiku nelle cucine di ragazzi orfani vite sospese

  30. 4 out of 5

    María Alcaide

    Maravilloso

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