Banana Yoshimoto is the internationally bestselling author of Kitchen and numerous other books — and this week, we were pleased to publish three of them as Grove paperbacks for the very first time. Born Mahoko Yoshimoto in 1964 (she took on her pen name, she says, “just because I love banana flowers”), Yoshimoto is one of Japan’s most exciting and respected authors, telling unconventional-yet-grounded stories in an elegantly direct style. With N.P., Lizard, and Amrita at last available from Grove in paperback, her work awaits discovery by its largest American readership yet.
First published in Japan in 1990, and in Ann Sherif’s English translation in 1994, N.P. tells the story of a book called N.P., a collection of short stories in English whose author has committed suicide — as has every translator who attempts to render it in Japanese, always when they reach its ninety-eighth story. The LA Times called it “an eerie, marvelous novel of Japanese ‘Generation X’ youth caught in baroquely tangled emotional webs,” noting that it proved its author “worthy of all the hype and attention she received for her first novel, ‘Kitchen.’”
“I am unable to explain anything about that summer articulately. All I remember is the hot sunlight, and a strong sense of not being there. What role did I play? How did my emotions figure? I feel as if I had become the summer itself. As summer, I had a unique vantage point. I was able to watch her.” — From N.P.
First published in 1993, and in Ann Sherif’s translation in 1995, Lizard is a collection of calmly ferocious short stories, imbued with a clear-eyed urban perspective, dauntlessness in the face of themes like despair and destiny, a distinctive take on magical realism.
“Long ago, people would have said that I was possessed by evil spirits; now, we label it neurotic. I was suffering under the stress of her resentment. For my part, I saw it as the inevitable result of what I did. I altered the course, changed the plot. Of course, the spin-off from that glitch came to rest on me.” — From “Dreaming of Kimchee,” in Lizard
First published in 1994, and in an English translation by Russell F. Wasden in 1997, Amrita (the title is from the Vedic Sanskrit for “immortality”) tells the story of Sakumi, a woman in her late twenties who loses, in rapid succession, her movie-star sister and her memory. The journey that follows was compared to the work of Yukio Mishima by the Japan Times, which called the book “deeply affecting in its blend of ennui and hope… a novel that continues to echo long after it’s finished.”
“I couldn’t write novels or call ghosts in from the sea. It was just me; I was the only one living that way. Nature on the island seemed to share my burden with me. I just kept telling myself it was helping me because I was there, doing what I was doing.” —From Amrita