The Briefcase Paperback – 5 Apr 2012
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Praise for The Briefcase "I'm hooked on The Briefcase, a sentimental novel about the friendship, formed over late nights at a sake bar, between a Tokyo woman in her late thirties and her old high school teacher... I can only imagine what wizardry must have gone into Allison Markin Powell's translation."--Lorin Stein, The Paris Review Daily "A dream-like spell of a novel, full of humour, sadness, warmth and tremendous subtlety. I read this in one sitting and I think it will haunt me for a long time." --Amy Sackville "In quiet, nature-infused prose that stresses both characters' solitude, Kawakami subtly captures the cyclic patterns of loneliness while weighing the definition of love."--Booklist
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Five bottles of sake later, however, she sees him somewhat differently. They have a similar tastes in food, and a similar rhythm, or temperament, and despite the age difference, she feels much more comfortable with him than with friends her own age. They continue to meet at the bar occasionally after that, always by chance, and on occasion they go to his house afterward, though he remains formal. Divorced for fifteen years, Sensei lives in clutter, with mementoes of his past piled up everywhere - including a collection of "railway teapots," used on trains in the 1950s and 1960s, and a large collection of dead batteries which he says he cannot throw away because he "feels [symbolic] pity" for them: "I can't throw them away [at] the moment they die," he remarks.Read more ›
Tsukiko, an attractive, young-minded woman in her late thirties, meets an old school teacher of hers, at her local sake bar. She is unable to remember his name, so she calls him 'Sensei' (which, I believe, means 'teacher' in Japanese) and she continues to call him by this name throughout her story. Gradually over a period of weeks and months, Tsukiko and Sensei form a friendship, which slowly develops as they spend their evenings eating and drinking and their days shopping in the local markets. They also join the owner of the sake bar, Satoru, and his cousin, Toru, on an outing to the mountains to collect wild mushrooms, and they even manage to get away for a weekend to visit a spa hotel on an island, where they almost come close to a romantic encounter. Tsukiko and Sensei are essentially solitary people, but they are people who do not really want to be totally alone, and Tsukiko, finding that she is only really happy when she is with Sensei, realizes she is falling in love with her old teacher - but he is so correct in his behaviour towards her that she is finding it difficult to gauge how he really feels about her. And then there is Sensei's ex-wife, an unusual and intriguing woman, who left him years ago - but what happened to her and how does Sensei really feel about her now?
First-person narrated by Tsukiko, and written in spare, simple, uncluttered prose, this short novel shares with the reader the relationship that builds between Sensei and Tsukiko, and is a beautiful, poignant and charming story which is almost dream-like in places.Read more ›