Friday, May 6, 2011

Cherry Blossom Book: The Housekeeper and the Professor

The Housekeeper and the Professor: A NovelBookNAround reviewed The Housekeeper and the Professorlast January, but apparently a lot of people were influenced by her enthusiasm, so my library queue took until late March to disgorge it for me.  Yoko Ogawa's story is told exclusively by the housekeeper, a pragmatic woman who has been working to support herself and her son since she was seventeen.  She seems lonely, but unwilling to waste time on her own emotions when she barely has time for work and her family as it is.  But she still has the compassion to befriend the professor, a man with a permanent brain injury that prevents him from remembering anything new.  His current memory only lasts 80 minutes; each morning he wakes up with no memories of his life since the accident that damaged his mind.

The story concentrations on actions rather than emotions, letting the reader understand from the movement what the characters are feeling.  This leaves the emotions somewhat abstract, strongly felt but not verbalized, more a poem than a paragraph.  The relationships between the woman, the man, and the boy (her son) are based on immediate events -- love of baseball, the math facts and ideas the professor eagerly shares, the routines the housekeeper sets up for them.

The book is translated by Stephen Snyder, and I think I'll start looking at translators more closely. So far I really like the style of almost every Japanese-translated book I've read, and I'm not sure if what I like is the translation style or a Japanese style of writing.  It's a sparse style, where a deceptive simplicity allows a beautiful and powerful story to develop.  The picture of a cherry tree works well as the cover of this book with the delicacy and stunning loveliness of a blossom. A

No comments: