Asleep Paperback – 6 Aug 2001
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Banana Yoshimoto's Asleep is actually three novellas: "Night and Night's Travelers", "Love Songs" and "Asleep". The death of those close to the narrator is a recurring theme in the stories with sleep being used as a vehicle in which the everyday is denied whilst more important spiritual matters--coming to terms with the death, and life, of loved ones--can be achieved. In "Night and Night's Travelers" the narrator's brother has died and his lover has begun sleepwalking--her night-walks are a communion, a curse and a blessing, and a route through to understanding. In "Love Songs", a woman involved with a man whose wife is in a coma begins to sleep uncontrollably. In "Asleep" the narrator is haunted by an old rival in a love triangle--again, through sleep, and perhaps through dreams or a certain kind of sensibility, a hitherto forbidden or foreclosed communion flourishes. Yoshimoto has a wonderfully light touch and whilst the characterisation in these novellas is slight and the mysticism a little cloying, the optimism is infectious and the sadness beautifully articulated. "Asleep" is well worth staying awake for. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Banana Yoshimoto is a deceptively simple writer, elegant and subtle, effortlessly inhabiting her characters and allowing her readers to slip into her weird and enigmatic worlds. All the narrators in Asleep are women, struggling with loss, lethargy, sleep and and ghosts of one sort or another. Love seeps through these stories; one woman calls to a dead woman in her sleep wondering if she loves her; another falls for a man, whose wife is in a coma, and another cannot comes to terms with her overwhelming grief for her dead brother. All facets of love are explored in this delicately wrought collection. Her gift as a writer I think, is that she brings a sense of the supernatural, the beyond, otherness, into everyday lives, often during times of extreme emotion, when body and mind are crying out for a sense of coherence.
Try this beautiful book.Read it in bed, warm at night, let Banana Yoshimoto weave her spell. I guarantee you'll love Asleep and then you'll have to go and search out her other books.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"Asleep" is told in Yoshimoto style, like a story overheard with half-open eyes while drifting off to sleep. It is semi-magical and dreamy, but still in touch with the real world. The pacing, the narrative are all influenced by classical Japanese literature. Her writing is very gentle, very feminine. And poetic.
An enjoyable, lazy book. Good for seekers of love and those who cannot sleep at night.
I liked "Kitchen" and I hated "Amrita". Just so you know where I'm coming from. I thought "Kitchen" was intriguing in a Douglas Coupland-y way. I thought "Amrita" was dull dull dull. "Amrita" was one of those books you read where you spend half the time checking how much you've read (am I half way yet? am I half way yet? does this book go on forever? you get the message).
It could be a translation thing. What was it Shelley said about translation? Something about how translation is like putting a violet in a crucible? Something like that.
"Asleep" is funny. Not funny haha. Funny peculiar.
Three shortish stories making up one shortish book. Each story has its own characters. None of the characters from one story decamp to another. Yet, there is a sense that you tread similar ground three times here. There are dead people at the heart of the book. Dead brothers. Dead lovers. Dead friends. Dead rivals. Living people mistaken for ghosts. Mourning girls who walk through snow without noticing the cold.
It's kind of half "Kitchen" and half "Amrita". Parts of it are intriguing - in that parts of it suggest there is more at work here than the casual unfolding of ordinary lives - and parts of it feel bad. Parts of it feel badly written. Or badly translated. Hard to tell. Certain passages read like excerpts from a teenager's diary or a New Age self-help book.
"Asleep" is like some weird kind of textual anemone : it draws you in, it knocks you back. You want to praise the fragility of the emotion, you want to curse the blandness of the thoughts.
You get the impression that Banana enjoys dreams, the significance of dreams, the roles that dreams play in life and sleep. This is true in "Kitchen" and "Amrita" too. Banana appears to enjoy using dreams as a function. Dreams tell you as much about Banana Yoshimoto's characters as suits and ties do in HG Wells.
There is contrivance here. Elaborate contrivance for little or no effect. At one point - in the story "Asleep" - a character visits a dwarf medium ("Twin Peaks" anyone?) to lay nagging doubts to rest. The doubts are eased. And that's that. It is as if you have been presented with an enormous velvet firework only to find the gunpowder is damp.
There is no centre here. "Asleep" lacks heart or head or a combination of the two. Something.
It's like the time spent in transit I mentioned right at the start : you don't quite know where you are at any given time and you don't quite remember what you passed through when you arrive at your destination. You only wish you could have passed the journey in a more satisfactory way.
The three novellas in Asleep are earnest, sensuous, eccentric, and extremely surreal. The three female characters in the book are bewitched into a spiritual and magical sleep. In Night and Night's Travelers, the first story, a woman finds herself sleepwalking at night. In Love Song, a woman's sleep is haunted by a rival whom she once competed with in a love triangle. And in Asleep, a woman loses her best friend to suicide. Also, she is having an affair with a man whose wife is in a coma. Things take a strange turn when she finds herself suddenly unable to stay awake. The stories are very ambiguous; you have to pay attention to every detail in order to grasp their meaning. The magical realism in the stories is as mystical as a ghost story and the language is deceptively simple -- it is meant to play with the reader's mind.
I am awed by this incredible piece of fiction. The stories are very well done and interestingly nuance. This is her most creative work since Kitchen and her best collection of stories since Lizard. Powerful and spooky, Asleep will capture your heart. I strongly urge you to read this one!