Insightful & intimate. The event dotted the I`s and crossed the t`s in an event organised by the Japan Foundation and Foyles.
Fans of Kawakami were treated to a meet and greet with one of Japan`s most popular authors. Known for her off-beat fiction, Strange Weather In Tokyo certainly fits the Kawakami mold. It`s a gently-unfolding love story between a woman in her thirties and a man in his seventies, notable in part because it was also shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2014 (now part of International Manbooker Prize) The novel revolves around its 70 year old Sensei and Tsukiko a woman in her thirties, who at first glance could not be anymore different but eventually fall in love. Their social awkwardness is marked by conversations about weather and food, as a convenient shorthand for masking Tsukiko`s deepening feelings for the Sensei.
“I like writing about characters who have failed in some way. I don’t mean that they have gone to ruin. I mean that everybody fails , but everyone reacts differently. How you move on from failure and what you do next .”
It`ss certainly a love story which traverses age differences and brings two solitary souls together. “You get groups of generations forming and men and women being quite separate. but in this novel I think the generations get along quite well.”
The author was then asked whether the writer had a preoccupation with food since it often features heavily in her novels. Is she a foodie at heart ? Is there some sort of literary symbolism here ? Not according to Kawakami. “Apparently I like writing about food. I love life. I think eating good food ties up with loving life.
Sensei and Tsukiko are mirror images of each other, yet with the obvious generation gap between them, their relationship sadly develops in fits and starts. There is a disconnect between the two in how they they say lots but in fact say nothing at all.
“In Japan, in one class, more than 90% would be Japanese. You might think its strange to have that miscommunication when everyone is from that same group but its because everyone is from that same group and have that uniformity, that you get that miscommunication and that`s very interesting to write about”
Strange Weather In Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami & Translated by Allison Markin Powell Published by Portobello Books.