Banana Yoshimoto | Critical Review by Meg Cohen

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of Banana Yoshimoto.
This section contains 402 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Meg Cohen

Critical Review by Meg Cohen

SOURCE: "Top Banana," in Harper's Bazaar, No. 3388, March, 1994, p. 170.

In the following review, Cohen offers praise for NP.

When Banana Yoshimoto's novella Kitchen arrived on the American literary scene last year, many readers discovered a new soul mate. First published in Japan in 1987, it was praised for its artful simplicity and whimsical style; Yoshimoto proved to be a master storyteller with a lot of heart. And with the publication of her new book, NP, she has ventured out of the familiar confines of the kitchen and into a more restless, but no less magical, world.

Set in Japan, NP takes its title from a collection of 97 stories penned—in English—by a celebrated Japanese writer living in Boston. When a 98th story surfaces after the author's death, so does a distressing pattern: Anyone who tries to translate it into Japanese dies inexplicably. Kazami Kano, the novel's central character, is one of two people in possession of this cursed chapter (it was left to her when her boyfriend committed suicide while attempting the translation). "When I'm reading it," she confesses, "I always get this feeling of a thick, hot liquid brewing in my heart. A new universe enters my body, and takes on a life of its own within me."

Through the writings Kazami befriends the dead author's two children and his tragic young lover. As their lives become irrevocably intertwined, their friendship is challenged by powerful emotions: love, grief, need, dependence, fear, and passion. These four friends are bound to a common destiny through their shared knowledge of NP.

The novel's strength lies in Yoshimoto's insightful prose; her ability to make everyday events seem romantic is a rare gift. Her characters possess a discerning maturity for people in their early 20s, which lends a fantastical, almost timeless quality to the narration. Since Kitchen put America in such a state of Bananamania, it's not surprising that Yoshimoto has chosen to infuse NP with numerous American elements. However, it's ironic that the book centers around the danger involved in translating English into Japanese, when, in fact, Yoshimoto herself writes only in Japanese. But NP, with its eccentric plot twists and charming superstition, proves not only that Yoshimoto has broken the language barrier but also that there's plenty more where this came from.

Additional coverage of Yoshimoto's life and career is contained in the following source published by Gale Research: Contemporary Authors, Vol. 144.

(read more)

This section contains 402 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Meg Cohen
Follow Us on Facebook