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“Spider Lilies” by Hiroko Oyamada

Oyamada is the Akutagwa Prize winner. What makes her story distinctive is the element of fauna and flora. Her depiction of flowers is effective enough to evoke the scent physically from pages. I believe one of the most important themes of this short story is “interpretations”. Spider lilies are usually considered ominous flowers with their poison in Japan. However, they are at the same time medicinal plants. Depending on the place where they grow, they can be the flowers which must be yanked out or the ones which remind us of autumn.

A variety of juxtapositions between the city and country, the grand mother-in-law and the mother-in-law, red and white are interwoven. The border between what’s real and what’s fake blurs. What the grandmother-in-law says about breast milk and what the mother-in-law says about it differs. Who is saying the truth? Who is lying? The protagonist gets puzzled. So do the readers. Probably, they are both telling the “truth”. If you haven’t read Oyamada’s works, this could be a good start! This short story is available on the Granta website. I strongly recommend “The Hole” as well! Such a great story to start with in the year 2023!

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