Record of a Night Too Brief
Pushkin Press | 2017 | 158 pages |ISBN: 9781782272717
Hiromi Kawakami does an incredible job at weaving a web of dream-like fantasy meshed in with the realism of Japanese society in Record of a Night Too Brief. She’s truly a pioneer of Japanese magical realism in modern novella. This is a collection of three short stories, each revolving around different fantastical elements disrupting the ordinary lives of the central female characters.
The first story, Record of a Night too Brief, contains several short, dream-like instances, with one overarching story of two young people and the journey they take across what feels like a universe. While the brief instances come from Kawakami’s own dream journal, the story of the two women evolving and having a relationship together that’s quite tumultuous sticks out to me most. The narrator envisions the other girl shrinking with each kiss, or that she must rescue her from a box by shattering it to set her free, and all of these symbols are so gorgeous and intricately blended together that even I began to lose sight of myself. The story establishes a closeness with nature, and the supernatural vibe is very earthy and real.
Missing focuses on family, and this one was quite haunting in comparison to its predecessor. In this story’s world, families always stay one size (a maximum of five members), and each family has their own sort of tradition or quirk to them. The main character’s older brother, referred to as “my brother number one,” disappears around the time he is due to be married, and they end up having her second brother take his place as they accept this new woman into the family. She feels as if she’s the only one who remembers her first brother, and the truthfulness of memory starts to come into question alongside her reliability as a narrator, which leaves a strange feeling in the stomach as you read onwards.
A Snake Stepped On was, for me, the best of the three. A young woman trips over a snake and ends up welcoming it into her home, where it takes care of her only to try and coerce her to become a snake herself. The main character, Hiwako, refuses the advances and insists upon staying human, and the tension between her and her snake grows into a battle of pure will. I found this story to be the best one because the character really does question herself and her humanity, and I find internal journey of character to be incredibly satisfying to read, whatever direction the character takes.
I definitely recommend giving this book a read. It’s quick, but you’ll be so filled with imagination and creative energy that you’ll feel compelled to pick up the pen for yourself. It releases in English both in physical and digital form on December 5, 2017, so be sure to preorder it.