Magazine article World Literature Today

The Lake

Magazine article World Literature Today

The Lake

Article excerpt

Banana Yoshimoto. The Lake. Michael Emmerich, tr. Brooklyn, New York. Melville. 2011. isbn 9781933633770

Many reviewers seem to have read The Lake through an Orientalist lens; despite the novel's simplistic language, which offers little more than its own existence on the page, many reviewers willfully mistake such writing for profundity. Banana Yoshimoto's (b. 1964) awkward attempts to create compelling prose lead, more often than not, to caricatures such as "When things get really bad, you take comfort in the placeness of a place," which only weaken the work. Indeed, her desire to craftmemorable moments of figurative language are largely strained, although there are occasional flashes that bring a smile to the lips.

The banality of the writing, and the painfully awkward sentence structure (which, it should be noted, is not the fault of Emmerich, whose excellent translation captures all too well the deficiencies apparent in the original), leave the reader constantly wondering why it is necessary to plough through the narrative at all. A story that asks the reader work for its treasure succeeds when the reward is at least worth that effort. The Lake, while offering hints that our engagement with the characters and their tale will leave us satisfied, never fully achieves that objective. It is this missed opportunity that is the novel's greatest shortcoming, for we read in the penumbra of an exquisite work that lies just beyond sight.

Despite these significant shortcomings, The Lake may be Yoshimoto's best work since Tugumi (1989; Eng. …

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