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Review – Life in the Cul-de-Sac March 13, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 4.5 stars, Foreign, Literature.
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Life in the Cul-de-Sac

by Senji Kuroi

Life in the Cul-de-Sac is considered “one of the most important Japanese novels of the last two decades” and is the winner of the Tanizaki Prize. It’s a series of interlacing stories about families who live in a cul-de-sac. At first the stories don’t seem to be connected but then the connection becomes more obvious even if it’s a bit tenuous at times. It still makes for a strong story as it proves that this is a modern kind of “Japanese floating world” versus the traditional group-ethic.

The families are insulated in their own worlds yet they touch upon each other in meaningful ways. They’re interleaved together in a mesh of humanity that aches for understanding. The women are the strongest voices in the stories. Ultimately they’re the strongest characters in the book.

In “The Door Across The Street”, Shizuko Takigawa needs to keep things unchanged and to stand up for what she wants. In “Night Guest”, Masayo Yasunaga aches to be free of the traditional role her life’s put her in.

Even though the women resonated within me the loudest the men did have a say. In “Toy Room”, you find Fusao Oda aching for days gone by for example.

Each character went through the aches and pains of every day life. Yet many had a nobility and/or a poignancy I found admirable and touching. They were real people going through very real problems and I could relate to them on a very human level.

You can see why this book won the Tanizaki Prize. I hope to read more books by Senji Kuroi. He’s a masterful storyteller.