Paperback, 164 pages
Published January 22nd 2008 by Picador (first published 1990)
From Akutagawa Award-winning author Yoko Ogawa comes a haunting trio of novellas about love, fertility, obsession, and how even the most innocent gestures may contain a hairline crack of cruel intent.
A lonely teenage girl falls in love with her foster brother as she watches him leap from a high diving board into a pool–a peculiar infatuation that sends unexpected ripples through her life.
A young woman records the daily moods of her pregnant sister in a diary, taking meticulous note of a pregnancy that may or may not be a hallucination–but whose hallucination is it, hers or her sister’s?
A woman nostalgically visits her old college dormitory on the outskirts of Tokyo, a boarding house run by a mysterious triple amputee with one leg.
Hauntingly spare, beautiful, and twisted, The Diving Pool is a disquieting and at times darkly humorous collection of novellas about normal people who suddenly discover their own dark possibilities.
The Diving Pool was my introduction to Yoko Ogawa and what an introduction it was. The synopsis calls this collection of novellas disquieting and honestly, there is no better descriptor for it. It is written in a sparse style, as though every single word was chosen after great consideration. The outward emotional expressions of the characters in the novel are repressed but their inner lives are full of chaos. One of the more stunning achievements of the novellas is the characterizations of the players. They are mutable depending on the perspective one looks at them from.
In the first novella, a girl stalks her foster brother, watching him from what she presumes is a hidden place, lashing out at innocents because she has discovered that causing pain gives her pleasure and then, as the reader observes, horrified, fascinated, it is revealed that the class is not as opaque as assumed. In the second one, a girl feeds her pregnant sister and the reader has to decide when the act of giving food becomes darker than just an expression of frustrated affection. The third one is even more obtuse, set in a dormitory that is beset by rumors when one of the residents goes missing. The protagonist’s cousin, too, seems to never be around and in the rather sinister denouement, some light is shed but again, the mystery is solved explicitly and Ogawa depends on the reader’s intellect to find a satisfactory answer.
If you like Murakami’s work, chances are you will like Ogawa’s as well. They do not have the same style but they have similar depths to their writing that I appreciate a lot.