“Pink” by Tomoyuki Hoshino (The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories)
I deal with the theme of ‘post-war Japan’ this term, under which we will read and discuss Hoshino, Nosaka, and Kawabata. Hoshino was born in Los Angeles in 1965. He grew up in Yokohama and Tokyo and majored in literature at Waseda University. After graduating, he became a journalist at Sankei Newspaper and worked there for two and a half years. Subsequently, he studied abroad in Mexico for about 5 years, which led him to engage in subtitle translation. He has accumulated so many prestigious literary awards including Mishima Prize, Tanizaki Prize and Oe Kenzaburo Prize. This story unfolds itself with the description of the unprecedented heat wave Japan faces. The starting date of the heat is August 6 and continues until August 15. These two dates are special dates for us and they automatically connect readers with World War II. The protagonist Naomi, who babysits her sister’s daughter Pink, starts spinning and twirling to escape from the suffocating heat. Meanwhile, this act of spinning gets spread instantly all over Japan. Near Naomi’s house stands Kumano Shrine, where people flock to dedicate themselves to the deed of whirling. Two other important characters in the story are Naomi’s sister’s ex-husband and a young man who Naomi and Pink encounter in a park. They are both drawn to a right-wing organization ‘the Greater East Asian Friendship Society’, which reminds us of Japan’s propaganda during World War II. The most impressive is the last long paragraph where readers are intentionally confused and deceived in timeline. The gears of the storytelling get shifted too. Well-structured plotline, magic realism, continuity of war to the present, subversion of gender stereotypes, images each character’s name evokes, all of this makes this story distinctive. I became a fan of Hoshino after reading this story. I personally thank Brian Bergstrom @asa_no_burei for his superb translation. I’ve been lucky enough to have exchanged messages with Brian regarding Hoshino’s works. I already bought another work of Hoshino “We, the Children of Cats” edited and translated by him. Check this out!