The English translation of Kanehara Hitomi’s novel Autofiction is going to come out in just a few days through Vintage UK. I’ve already preordered my copy :) To celebrate the occasion I spent this afternoon re-reading her debut, Snakes & Earrings (which I’ve sort-of-reviewed here). This time I found it so much easier to relate to the three main characters and found the writing a lot more reflective than the first time. I think it has a lot to do with gained personal experience, my current mind set etc. And with that, my hopes for enjoying Autofiction just as much are extremely high.
Just by skimming through the reviews on Amazon Japan it becomes pretty clear that lots of readers seem to have difficulties with categorizing Kanehara’s writing. Is it pure literature? Is it entertainment meant to shock and sell? Is it literature at all or just plain trash? I’m not a friend of categorizations at all. Different pieces of art/culture/literature appeal to different people, you can love something and relate to it and feel that it reflects your own way of life and thinking, or you simply don’t. Kanehara’s stories truly aren’t made for a wide range of readers. (Though at least her debut was a huge commercial success after it received the Akutagawa Prize.) Only a small fraction of people probably can fully relate to her characters because not everybody is trying to find alternative ways of living or to take things to extremes. It is a kind of “alternative” literature that’s very controversial but definitely deserves to be called literature. (And that shocking, provocative nuance of her works definitely isn’t new to Japanese literature anyway, think Akutagawa, Tanizaki, Dazai Osamu, Murakami Ryuu etc.)