Grotesque (2003)

by Natsuo Kirino

Halloween Reviews 2020

An unnamed narrator, whose spite and resentment makes her unreliable, guides us through the brief lives of two women who sink into prostitution from fairly advantaged, if precarious, positions in Japanese society and are ultimately murdered. 

This difficult but often fascinating novel is sometimes hard to get through. 

Author Natsuo Kirino denies her readers many things that may have drawn them to a crime novel about murdered prostitutes, such as sympathetic characters, a tight, suspenseful plot, and a satisfying resolution. 

Natsuo Kirino

Rather, Kirino seems more interested in exploring how the class structure of Japan can warp those who do not have a secure claim on their status within it, such as women and foreigners. 

Some passages are oddly impenetrable, as if translator Rebecca Copeland were struggling with concepts that do not translate neatly into English but require the kind of expansion from the original Japanese text that would corrupt the translation. 

A fascinating look at the dark side of Japanese society. 

The American translation omits sections of the novel that touch on underage male prostitution on the grounds that the subject is too sensitive for an American audience. 

I oppose this, particularly since this material reportedly appears at the end of the novel, which suggests that it may have had particular relevance to its themes. 

However, I can understand the decision, given the very vocal opposition from some quarters against material that they find triggering.


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