Tuesday, April 13, 2010

New This Week: Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa

I love the line in the publicity material where potential reviewers are informed that The Los Angeles Times compared Japanese author Yoko Ogawa to Haruki Murakami, Kazuo Ishiguro and Kenzaburō Ōe. And while, yes, all of those author have Japanese names with loads of syllables, their work is not comparable. Well, it’s all writing. And it’s all very good. But that’s not the basis for drawing this line. Ishiguro, for example, has lived in the United Kingdom since he was six, has a Master’s degree from East Anglia and was listed as one of the “50 greatest British writers since 1945” by The London Times.

Like those other internationally recognized authors, though, Ogawa is terrific and January has liked that of her work that has been translated thus far. The author has been well known and respected since her debut, Disintegration of the Butterfly, in 1988. Though she has enjoyed wide international translation, especially in French, somehow she managed to escape wide notice in English until the publication of The Diving Pool not that many years ago. Like others of her work that have moved successfully into English, Hotel Iris (Picador) was first published several years ago. It appeared first in 1996 and this translation is by Stephen Snyder, who also did The Diving Pool and The Housekeeper and the Professor.

A mother and daughter toil away in a sad old Japanese version of a Fawlty Towers of a hotel, without all the comic relief. Seventeen-year-old Mari becomes intrigued by a middle-aged man who may or may not have killed his wife. Intrigue moves to seduction and it’s not long before the two are on their way to a potentially dangerous affair.

Hotel Iris is spare, uncomfortable, disturbing. I couldn’t put it down.

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Anonymous Shelley said...

I believe Oe is a writer that Maya Angelou has expressed great admiration for. However, the part of this post my mind can't forget is...the idea of a Japanese Fawlty Towers! (Wonder what country their version of Manuel would be from....)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 10:20:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous John Lowe said...

An utterly incompetent "review" of a great writer. Who cares what the LA times said about her? Bye the way, The Housekeeper and the Professor is her most notable book translated into English thus far and ought to have received more than a mere mention.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at 8:17:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Sienna Powers said...

John, who peed in your cornflakes? Not sure why you'd be so grumpy about what is a very positive mention of this book. And the only one using the word "review" is you.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at 1:47:00 PM PDT  

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