Grotesque is Natsuo Kirino’s another masterpiece after Out. Kirino lay outs her story very remarkable using the main protagonist’s inner conversation – only known as Yuriko’s older sister throughout the novel – when she’s reading her younger-and-monstrous-beauty sister, Yuriko’s diary; her hardworking-but-not-popular friend in high school, Kazue’s journal, and the murderer-cum-immigrant-from-poor-city-in-China, Zhang’s written report.
The novel has eight chapters that are titled as follow:
1. A Chart of Phantom Children
2. A Cluster of naked Seed Plants
3. A Natural-born Whore: Yuriko’s Diary
4. World Without Love
5. My Crimes: Zhang’s Written Report
6. Fermentation and Decay
7. Jizō of Desire: Kazue’s Journals
8. Sounds of the Waterfall in the Distance: The Last Chapter
I truly believe it has a smart outline and bright writing style. I think it’s not easy to build four individual-writing styles that portray four distinguish characters and make them into one story. You can change your perception about the characters as you read through the novel. Better even, it’s good to read about female’s characters from a woman’s perspective.
Below is the powerful paragraph in this novel…
I can only come up with one suggestion: Perhaps Yuriko and Kazue and Mitsuru and even Takashi and Zhang are all part of me – whoever “I” am. Perhaps I exist in order to remain behind as their spirits—floating, recounting their tales. If that’s the case, I am sure there are some among you who will observe that mine is a black spirit. And you would be right. A spirit, you should know, assumes a black form. It is painted with hatred, dyed with bitterness, and has a face disfigured by curses and resentment. And that’s why it lingers on. Perhaps you could say my existence was like that of grimy snow packed darkly in the pit of Yuriko’s heart—and of Kazue’s and Mitsuru’s and Zhang’s. Having said as much, I realize I have probably taken the comparison too far. But I have no other way to express it. I was flesh and blood—just an everyday, ordinary person rife with intolerance, resentment, and jealousy.
Thanks to my sis, Sylvia, who gave me this book, and also Out. (She really knows what kind of books I really like.) And, I lent it to my sis, Thress, to read.
This is what appears on the side of front cover of this book:
Two prostitutes have been murdered in Tokyo.
Yuriko had been working as a prostitute all her adult life, starting while still at school, where her stunning beauty compensated for what she lacked in intellect and commanded attention from older men.
Kazue worked for a blue-chip company and had good career prospects, but was unpopular with colleagues and felt isolated. She chose to walk the streets at night where she hoped to get noticed.
Twenty years previously both women were educated at elite school for young ladies, and both exhibited exceptional promise prior to their brutal, unnecessary deaths. How and why did this tragedy occur? With narration from Yuriko’s embittered, unattractive sister, and through the girls’ journals and diaries, Kirino allows their shocking story to unfurl.
As with Out, Grotesque gets under the skin, and Kirino’s analysis of the female psyche grips the reader. The extreme need to succeed, and the vicious desire to be accepted in the bewildering environment of modern life is explored here with acute and chilling insight. Grotesque is a masterful and haunting achievement.
About the Author and Translator:
Natsuo Kirino, born in 1951, is the author of sixteen novels, four short-story collections, and an essay collection. She quickly established a reputation in Japan as one of the rare breed of crime writers whose work goes well beyond the conventional crime novel. She is the recipient of six of Japan’s premier literary awards, including the Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Out, the Izumi Kyōka Prize for Literature for Grotesque, and the Naoki Prize for Soft Cheeks. Her work has been published in nineteen languages worldwide; several of her books have also been turned into movies. Out was the first of her novels to appear in English and was nominated for an Edgar Award. She lives in Tokyo.
Rebecca L. Copeland translated it from the Japanese – she is a professor of Japanese literature at Washington University in St. Louis Missouri, was born in Fukuoka, Japan, the daughter of American missionaries. She received her Ph.D. in Japanese Literature from Columbia University in 1986. She has published numerous scholarly studies on and translations of modern Japanese women’s writing.