As if Natsuo Kirino’s books don’t sound interesting enough by themselves, this interview in the LA Weekly has convinced me to check them out. Her books—two of which are available in English, Out and Grotesque, which was a Reading the World book this year—are beyond categorization, seeming to inhabit a space between crime fiction and literature, with a strong feminist underpinning that is twisted and disturbing.
As if that wasn’t confusing enough, here’s Margy Rochlin’s take:
Margy Rochlin describes her work as:
Author Natsuo Kirino is often referred to as “the queen of Japanese crime fiction.” But is that really the best way to classify her work? Her queasily disturbing, gender-political tales have also been called “Japanese feminist noir,” while in Japan, her brainy writing-style mashup is known as “Kirino Jynru,” or a book that borrows freely from several genres but feels beholden to none of their rules.
Michael Orthofer pointed this out as well, but Kirino’s response to the question about super-agent Binky Urban and which books are next in line to be translated provides an interesting glimpse into the politics of fiction in translation:
I went to New York and I hoped that Soft Cheeks would be translated because I thought it was a really good book. But Binky did her own research and found out through a Japanese connection that Grotesque might be a good option. After hearing a little bit about it, she decided that that would be the next one.
Since Binky doesn’t read Japanese, it’s odd that she has so much say in what comes out when. Although that kind of attention to the American market is what created the image we have of Murakami Haruki . . .
The next book does sound cool though, especially since it sounds like Americans won’t like it:
[What Remains] is a pretty dark story of kidnapping, and appears to be well received [in Japan], but I have my doubts about how it’s going to be received over here because of the sexuality. The narrative is structured in kind of a sandwich form, where you’ve got the author in the present, who’s reflecting on this time in the past when she was kidnapped for one year and held captive by a guy who said he wanted to be her friend. It’s a dark remembrance with these sexual scenes in it, so I feel a little skeptical about how it’s going to be taken here.
Though far from the most convincing reason to read literature in translation, one common side effect is learning of another culture, of its history. Within that, and a stronger motivation to read, is the discovery of stories not possible within. . .
Despite cries that literature is dead, dying, and self-replicating in the worst way, once in a while a book comes along to remind readers that there’s still a lot of surprise to be found on the printed page. To be. . .
“I was small. And my village was small, I came to know that in time. But when I was small it was big for me, so big that when I had to cross it from one end to the other,. . .
A few weeks after moving into a farm house in the Welsh countryside, Emilie, an expatriate from the Netherlands, starts to think about her uncle. This uncle tried to drown himself in a pond in front of the hotel where. . .
Think back to the last adventure- or action-type book you read. Wasn’t it cool? Didn’t it make you want to do things, like learn to shoot a crossbow, hack complicated information systems, travel to strange worlds, take on knife-wielding thugs,. . .
In Aira’s Shantytown, while we’re inside the characters’ heads for a good portion of the story, the voice we read on the page is really that of Aira himself, as he works out the plot of the book he’s writing.. . .
Noir is not an easy genre to define—or if it once was, that was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away; as a quick guess, maybe Silver Lake, Los Angeles, 1935. When two books as different as. . .
Some time ago I read this phrase: “The page is the only place in the universe God left blank for me.”
Pedro Mairal’s short novel The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra is more about these blank spaces than the usual full. . .
“What if even in the afterlife you have to know foreign languages? Since I have already suffered so much trying to speak Danish, make sure to assign me to the Polish zone . . .”
So reads a typical aphoristic “poem”. . .
If you somehow managed to overlook the 2012 translation of Andrés Neuman’s breathtaking Traveler of the Century (and woe betide all whom continue to do so), you now have two exceptional works of fiction from the young Argentine virtuoso demanding. . .