Record of a Night Too Brief
by Hiromi Kawakami
Pushkin Press

“What was that itch on my back? I wondered. And then I realised it was the night – the night was nibbling into me.” Strange and matter-of-fact, this opening is very Hiromi Kawakami. Things only get curiouser in this first of three novellas. Metaphors (the narrator runs “as fast as a horse”) strive to become real: the narrator begins to steam, snort and whinny in equine fashion. An “array of gentlemen” all dressed in white eat a vast meal of seafood. Our narrator kisses a beautiful girl until she shrinks to almost nothing. The other stories dive down similar rabbit holes. “Missing” begins: “Lately, things just keep going missing. Most recently, my eldest brother – that is, of my two eldest brothers, brother No 1.” The whys of this vanishing act are less important than how the rigid family regroups around the void, as if Kawakami is surveying a nation struggling with imperceptible change. At once funny and humane, the author’s estranging fiction is bewitching. If Japan were in need of a Lewis Carroll, look no further.