Jun is walking out on the ten-meter board. He's wearing the rust-colored swimsuit I saw yesterday on the drying rack outside the window of his room. When he reaches the end of the board, he turns slowly; then, facing away from the water, he aligns his heels. Every muscle in his body is tensed, as if he were holding his breath.
My previous experiences with Japanese short stories and novellas have mainly come from Haruki Murakami's fiction. Yoko Ogawa, another contemporary Japanese author, is a new acquaintance for me.
The Diving Pool is a collection of three novellas, all set in Japan. In the title novella, a young girl, Aya, falls in love with her foster brother Jun as she spends her lonely afternoons watching him practice diving at a local pool. Her suppressed feelings force a darker side of her personality to the surface. In "Pregnancy Diary", a woman writes a diary about her sister's pregnancy and the strange effects that her sister's demands and cravings for food have on her. The last novella, "Dormitory", is the most puzzling one. A woman visits her old college dormitory in Tokyo as she tries to help her cousin find a room. The crippled caretaker of the deserted dormitory is a strange, sinister figure, and the woman's cousin disappears mysteriously...
The three novellas are all about the dark, cruel and inappropriate feelings that people try to repress, but that can emerge in unexpected ways. I think the last novella draws the overall theme together, as it evokes dark feelings of suspicion and fear in the reader instead of one of the characters. Ogawa's stories are disturbing, haunting and wonderfully creepy.
Yoko Ogawa: The Diving Pool. Vintage. 2009. 164 pages.
"The Diving Pool" originally published in Japanese as Samenai Koucha
"Dormitory" and "The Pregnancy Diary" originally published in Japanese as Ninshin Karenda
Translated by Stephen Snyder
Guardian: "Dark Side of the Dormitory"
Macmillan: The Diving Pool
Vintage Books: The Diving Pool
Vintage Books: Yoko Ogawa
Wikipedia: Yoko Ogawa