September 30, 2022



4 min read

BOOK REVIEW EDITOR-IN-CHIEF ELLA KELLEHER WRITES – Hiromi Kawakami’s assortment of vignettes titled Folks From My Neighborhood (2020), just lately revealed into English, particulars the people of her neighborhood in an excellent piece of bite-sized fiction. In 120 pages, the reader is plunged right into a lifetime of drama, secrets and techniques, and otherworldly quirkiness centered round a close-knit group in an outer ward of Tokyo. In every two or three-page close-ups, the reader begins to know the expansive, tangled internet of relationships that tie the townspeople collectively.

Writer Hiromi Kawakami

Japanese writer Hiromi Kawakami is one in every of her nation’s hottest modern novelists. She was made well-known worldwide for her e-book Unusual Climate in Tokyo (2013), which was shortlisted for the Unbiased International Fiction Prize. As well as, Kawakami is thought for her absurdist writing type, which permeates the stylistic ambiance in Folks From my Neighborhood (2020). With the extraordinary effort of translator Ted Goossen, Kawakami’s unearthly allure and surrealist dreamscapes are actually obtainable for English-reading audiences to journey inside.

One peculiar character appears to resurface in lots of the shorts: the unnamed narrator’s shut buddy, Kanae. A “delinquent” lady with a penchant for violence, Kanae usually brings components of motion, type, and wickedness into the tales. By means of Kanae, the narrator explores her burgeoning sexuality. The 2 women beg God to grant them “breasts as shortly as attainable” so they could “battle aliens, depraved spiritual sects, and different forces of evil” collectively. As weird as the 2 could appear, their infantile wishes and wayward inclinations are extremely relatable.


Kawakami’s assortment rejects the standard ‘linear narrative.’ Reasonably than her e-book being linked by a traditional story-driven arc, it’s tied collectively by relationships. Kawakami presents us with a human-driven narrative. Every particular person vignette feeds into the subsequent by an sudden widespread theme. In “The Crooner,” the neighborhood resents and finally disposes of a vicious mutt that had a bent to chunk passersby. Within the following story, “The College Principal,” we meet a middle-aged, bald man with a knack for talking to canine who assumes command and accountability for all of the neighborhood’s canines. The next story explores the lives of comparable directionless, middle-aged adults. Much like a stream-of-consciousness narrative, we discover the neighborhood via the idiosyncrasies of its many residents.

Folks From My Neighborhood – 120 pages — $12.71 – Granta Books, London – 2020

Because the e-book progresses, the story loses its middle of gravity and lifts off into the world of magical realism – a literary dreamscape that many modern Japanese authors wish to plunge into. “Weightless” is an ideal instance of Kawakami’s surrealistic storytelling that additionally has a deliciously sharp fringe of irony. “For the primary time in ages,” the neighborhood will get a “no-gravity alert” from the “Catastrophe Preparedness Workplace,” whereby the residents of the city won’t have gravity “between two and 5 o’clock” within the afternoon. They have to stay indoors and need to put on heavy weights if they have to go exterior. Authorities enforced lockdowns, excessive measures needing to be taken simply to depart one’s dwelling, and the uncertainty for one’s wellbeing all ring a sure pandemic-inspired bell.

Kawakami’s e-book escalates into political commentary, notably on late-stage capitalism. In “Sports activities Day,” an area financial institution sponsors an annual bodily health competitors centered round occasions like money-counting and mortgage analysis. In a barely longer story, “The Household Commerce,” Sōkichi Nashida leaves the city to keep away from inheriting his household’s enterprise. He succeeds at every thing he makes an attempt. He turns into a rich stockbroker, begins a farm, and even revolutionizes the agriculture enterprise by unionizing its employees. Nashida lastly decides to turn out to be a Buddhist monk and reaches enlightenment. Regardless of all his efforts, although, he by no means actually achieves what he needs in life: a partner. Kawakami’s implicit message wisens its readers: attempt as we would to turn out to be rich, no quantity of financial success is of any consequence to the place our true happiness comes from – human connection.


The e-book isn’t with out its considerate social commentary as effectively. In “Eye Drugs,” the narrator meets Dr. Miranda, who explains that most individuals hatch from eggs, and solely a small proportion of persons are actually viviparous people. Among the many actual people are the narrator and, in fact, Dr. Miranda. “That’s why I’m so lonely. Are you able to perceive my loneliness?” Dr. Miranda asks, not simply the narrator however maybe all of us readers. Dr. Miranda suggests a fast homeopathic treatment to loneliness: a mix of antibiotics and boiled broccoli. The actual factor, nonetheless, isn’t really easy to repair. Essentially the most potent theme in Kawakami’s storytelling is the necessity for group – with out it, we barely retain our humanity.

Full with egg-people, teenage gangs, vicious however endearing road canine, and sociopolitical commentary, Kawakami’s slice-of-life assortment of brief tales is an train in experimenting with absurdism and relationship-driven storytelling. Full of cheerful uncanniness and weird moments that can make you chortle – you’ll surprise, “Do I actually know the folks in my neighborhood, residence, or city?” Greater than something, Kawakami expresses that there’s magic in locations that appear totally strange.


LMU English main graduate Ella Kelleher is the e-book evaluation editor-in-chief and a contributing workers author for Asia Media Worldwide. She majored in English with a focus in multi-ethnic literature.

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