Summer Reading

I just finished Amélie Nothomb's novella, Tokyo Fiancée. I found it by happenstance at the San Diego library. I didn't know that she had written a new work. I remember reading Fear and Trembling and The Character of Rain. Of course, she writes in French and these are English translations that I'm reading. Nevertheless, I always find a sort of understanding in her words -- she has a way of describing one's inner thoughts in fresh ways. I find myself surprised sometimes to know that a feeling I once thought was private and unique has been felt by her. 

She writes what I guess would be called autobiographical fiction. She writes in the first person and the main character usually has her name, Amélie, but it's not labeled as memoir-- it is "a novel." I would like to think that this is the way I do/would write - from autobiographical truth comes a bigger truth when it is dramatized  into fiction. 

I wouldn't say that Tokyo Fiancée is the best work-- I found moments where she could have edited down some passages, toward the end, the organization of her ideas seem to be jumbled a little, but I read it in a breezy week just enjoying the moments she captured that reminded me much of my own time in Japan. Her climb and descent of Mt. Fuji brought me back to my climb of Mt. Fuji, which is 3,776 meters. Although her climb was more rigorous and energetic than mine as I did not reach the top, she described the descent much as I experienced it: 

I stood facing the sun, and at five-thirty exactly I flung myself onto the slope. I had removed my brakes. What I experienced was beyond grandiose: in order not to fall, I had to keep my legs in constant motion, running through the lava, moving my brain as quickly as my feet, never allowing for one second my madness to interrupt my vigilance, laughing to keep from falling whenever, inevitably, I began to slide down the slope, thus accelerating my rhythm; I was a hurtling meteor beneath the rising sun, I was my own subject for ballistic studies, I was shouting fit to wake the volcano.

Unfortunately, my edition had several typos which makes me wonder if the last line contains a typo: "I was shouting fit." I'm not quite sure what that means. It is supposed to be "I was a shouting fit ..."?

She also addresses a unique bond that is not so much a love bond, but something else. The jacket cover explains it well, that Nothomb explores "the possibility of love as a form of limitation." In the end she revisits the relationship she had with Rinri, "So that is what it was, Rinri and I: the fraternal embrace of the samurai. Infinitely more beautiful and noble than some silly love story." Here is another passage that struck me:

Between the two words, koi and ai, there is no variation of intensity, but an essential incompatibility. Can one fall in love with a person one has a liking for? Unthinkable. One falls in love with a person one cannot stand, a person who represents an unbearable danger. Schopenhauer saw in love the ruses of our reproductive instincts ... 

I may come back to add more thoughts later. 

Now onto my next library find: Yoko Ogawa's The Diving Pool: Three Novellas translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder, a translator who seems to get it right every time - all works that I've read of his, I like. Kenzaburo Oe says, "Yoko Ogawa is able to give expression to the most subtle workings of human psychology in prose that is gentle yet penetrating."

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