Book Review: Record of a Night Too Brief by Hiromi Kawakami

Record of a Night Too Brief
by Hiromi Kawakami, Lucy North (Translator)

Publication date: January 26th 2017
Publisher: Pushkin Press (first published 1996)
Pages: 158


Summary:

The Akutagawa Prize-winning stories from the author of Strange Weather in Tokyo.

In these three haunting and lyrical stories, three young women experience unsettling loss and romance.

In a dreamlike adventure, one woman travels through an apparently unending night with a porcelain girlfriend, mist-monsters and villainous monkeys; a sister mourns her invisible brother whom only she can still see, while the rest of her family welcome his would-be wife into their home; and an accident with a snake leads a shop girl to discover the snake-families everyone else seems to be concealing.

Sensual, yearning, and filled with the tricks of memory and grief, Record of a Night Too Brief is an atmospheric trio of unforgettable tales.

Source: Goodreads


Thoughts:

After enjoying ‘Strange Weather in Tokyo‘, I thought I’d explore some more books by Hiromi Kawakami. There are plenty to choose from and I have to admit that I chose this one for its funky cover art!

This book is a series of short stories, and the collection is award winning, but I think it’s fair to say that several of them are strange and they definitely won’t appeal to everyone.

“Sucked in and turned around by the blades, the night at first flows smoothly, but then it starts to take on a denser consistency. Already the night was nearly halfway through its course, so a good portion of it had hardened. Because of this, as I walked through it, it gave me none of the easy, buoyant feeling you get in the early-evening hours. Something about it seemed creaky. But that was, in its own way, typical of the night too.”

This book consists of three stories. The first one is also the name of the book: ‘Record of a Night Too Brief’ and it is actually a collection of 19 smaller stories, probably the strangest of the three Many of the stories were somewhat ethereal, others bizarre. I particularly enjoyed the story about a Japanese macaque but some of the others I just didn’t get or understand. I felt that they were well written, but often so baffling that I couldn’t really get in to them. I wonder if some of the stories were metaphorical and as I didn’t know or identify the metaphor myself, I felt a bit lost.

The second story is called ‘Missing’ and I preferred this one out of all of the stories. In the story, the narrator’s brother disappears, quite literally. This is pretty normal in this household so it’s not odd that the brother is in the house but cannot be seen. The theme of magical realism or Japanese folklore is strong in this collection and ‘Missing’ is an interesting story that gives you plenty to think about.

The third and final story is ‘A Snake Stepped On’, which was just okay for me. This story’s main character, Miss Sanada, steps on a snake on her way to work. Suddenly the snake transforms into a woman who, without any discussion or agreement, moves into her apartment.

” ‘you stepped on me, so now I don’t have a choice'”

This collection wasn’t really for me and I think I’ll try some more of Kawakami’s more traditional novels going forward.

Overall rating:  “Record of a Night Too Brief” is an extremely quirky collection of stories by Japanese author Hiromi Kawakami. For the most part I enjoyed the writing of these stories, but really they were just a little too strange for me to enjoy fully – 2 stars.

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