Looking for something creepy yet sophisticated this month? Critically acclaimed Japanese writer Yoko Ogawa’s story cycle Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales might just be the answer. The author of such great reads as Hotel Iris and The Housekeeper and the Professor, Ogawa’s short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker and Harper’s, among others. Ably translated by Stephen Snyder, these tales excel at unnerving and entertaining readers.
“Welcome to the Museum of Torture” opens with a paragraph on the “lots of people” who “died today.” In another tale, a clock reveals a macabre scene: “a little parade of animated figures pirouetted out—a few soldiers, chicken, and skeleton.” Others intrigue through close examination of character, for example “The Man Who Sold Braces” and this great first sentence: “Everything my uncle touched seemed to fall apart in the end.”
The events in these connected stories often have a kind of classic, timeless feel to them, too. An aspiring writer moves into a new apartment and discovers that her landlady has murdered her husband. An accomplished surgeon is approached by a cabaret singer, whose beautiful appearance belies the grotesque condition of her heart. Desire meets with impulse and erupts, attracting the attention of the surgeon’s neighbor---who is drawn to a creepy decaying residence. Murderers and mourners, mothers and children, lovers and innocent bystanders—their fates converge in an ominous and darkly beautiful web. Throughout, a dark, and somewhat dry, sense of humor permeates Ogawa’s prose, adding further depth.
Praise has been lavish, with New York Magazine saying of the collection, “Every act of malice glows creepily against the plain background. Ogawa is an expert in doing more with less.” Shelf Awareness calls the book “a delicious mosaic that concerns much more than its titular subject, as the messy human emotional spectrum gets exposed in eleven compulsively readable tales that become increasingly multilayered and interlocked.”
You can read a story from the collection, “The Last Hour of the Bengal Tiger” over at Weirdfictionreview.com and Picador has just released a wonderful book trailer for Revenge. The collection is definitely one of my favorites of the year thus far.