(CLASSIC: from Difficult Loves, Picador)
“The Adventure of a Soldier” focuses on the seduction of a widow by Private Tomagra, a young soldier taking the train home for an Easter leave. What’s always impressed me about this story is the erotic frisson of Tomagra’s fumbling seduction against the widow’s silent implacability. His sexual advances are so plaintive and so hopeless, and when the seduction finally succeeds we come to know who really has conquered whom. In this regard, it is also a narrative feat, and heartrending for its twist.
“Then he reattached the little finger to the rest of the hand, not withdrawing it, but adding to it the ring-finger, the middle-finger, the fore-finger: now his whole hand rested, inert, on that female knee, and the train cradled it in a rocking caress.” – The Adventure of a Soldier, by Italo Calvino
(MODERN: from The Diving Pool, Picador Paperback Originals).
‘Dormitory’ tells the story of a Japanese wife waiting for her husband to summon her to her new home in Sweden, meanwhile she is helping her young cousin move into the college dormitory she lived in when she herself was a student. It would be a soft idyll if it weren’t for the landlord’s severe and disturbing handicap, the persistent bees, the vanished tenant, and the fact that when she visits, her cousin never seems to be home. I love this story’s strangeness, its persistence with that strangeness, and the resonant ‘sound’ the odd images make as each one presses up to the another.
SAMPLE QUOTE: “But the X-ray showed that my ribs are bent out of shape, like tree branches that have been hit by lightning.” –Dormitory, by Yoko Ogawa)
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