Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami, published in Japan in 2008 and
published translated into English in May 2020, is a good reminder of the
danger of a single story. A profile of the article in The Guardian five
days ago quotes the author as saying, "Japan’s literary universe is
still odd, cute and a bit mysterious...But we’re not like that at all. I
don’t want to write books that perpetuate that image. I want to write
about real people.”
The real people in this book are women -
single women - dealing with the realities of a society that is so often
blind to what it takes to survive on your own, particularly as you age.
As you might imagine from the title, the female body, childbirth,
motherhood, and mother-daughter relationships are all major themes.
Their lives aren't quirky or flashy, just normal working lives.
author comes from this kind of background. The other element I'm
interested in from my reading is the Osaka dialect which she tried to
communicate in writing (which is difficult in logographic kanji,
hopefully I'm referring to it properly.) The translators have written
about this challenge and my book club should have fun discussing it
tomorrow, but I think it comes across best when the characters have been
This is another book for Women in Translation Month
and I think the translation is thoughtful, however I found it ironic
that both translators would be male for this very female-centric book.
It makes me wonder if there is anything they missed - the author feels
it is problematic when men impose legislation without including women
without being able to share their experiences - in the same vein why not
use a female translator? That really stood out.
I feel I enjoyed reading about and around this book
more than the book itself, but I can see what she is trying to do and
look forward to what she does next.
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