With its focus on forbidden (in this case incestuous) love, love suicide, evanecence, and the high valuation of literature, Banana Yoshimoto’s N.P. is recognizably Japanese. Perhaps in the flatness of dialog and the lack of character development, too? N.P., the collection of stories written in English by Sarao Takase, the dead-by-his-own-hand Japanese (fictional) author, is in no sense recovered by those preoccupied with them, including his daughter, Saki, his son (Otohiko, an especially wispy figure in the novel who lives with his sister), his son’s companion (Sui, a half-sister who was in a sexual relationship with their father), and the narrator who, as a high-school girl was in a sexual relationship with a man who was translating the book, and has the story not included in the English publication (i.e., #98)… The reader learns nothing of the first 97 stories either.
There are some vivid turns of phrase, particularly about loving summertime (does this constitute variance from venerating spring?). The dangerous woman leaves, and at the end the son seems to be falling in love with the only living character to whom he is not related by blood (pretty conventional, no?). What’s the fuss about? Something lost in translation seems unlikely.
©2016, Stephen O. Murray