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“Blue Moon” By Hiromi Kawakami

This is an essay like fiction. Kawakami’s prose has unique charm in itself. It renders readers’ minds peaceful and calm. This story is no exception. The protagonist one day faces a diagnosis of a possible cancer. Still, her life goes on, with her attitude towards life hardly changed. She goes to Russia as planned to participate in a haiku event. There, Russian participants present their haiku. A man in his 60s, whose brother recently died, shares his on the brother. The protagonist tweaks it and turns it into the one in the form of haiku: 5-7-5 syllables. Despite its slight rearrangements of words, it has significant effects on him.

He is moved and says

“I didn’t know anything about Japanese people. But today, meeting you, I knew Japanese people for the first time. I’m happy.”

What happens here is exactly “ostranenie”, which Russian formalists defined as the purpose of art. The protagonist defamiliarizes the poem, through which it assumes new dimensions and meanings. This exchange makes the protagonist reflect on life as well:

“Words, life... so very fragile, so small and insignificant.”

What does it mean to live, to die, or to write? This story makes us think. With its serene and comforting prose. With this session, 2022 now comes to a close. Thank you everyone for the great participation! Let’s continue to defamiliarize in 2023!

If you haven’t taken my classes yet, you can try one class for free as well.

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