Real WorldReal World by Natsuo Kirino

My rating: 3 of 5 stars (2.5 really)

To be honest, I’m not sure what to write about this novel.

I decided to read it because this year I want to add more translated books to my reading, and this happened to be the first one I picked up at the library.

It was a page turner – I did want to know what happened next. But as for the storyline and the characters…I’m in two minds about it.

The characters’ naivety bugged me. To be honest I found them all to be nothing more superficial, silly children with the moral compass of a 2-year-old throwing a supermarket tantrum. But maybe that was the point of the whole novel. I know absolutely nothing about contemporary Japanese culture so it could be that the book is a cutting critique of modern teenage life. Perhaps teens in Japan are all vacuous and self-absorbed, with no real connection to human emotions, and no sense of empathy or compassion. If so the novel succeeded in this portrayal of teenagers as horrible creatures with absolutely zero understanding of actions and consequences.

To me, that seems like an odd position to put forward, particularly as there was no character to challenge this view; no foil to the superficiality to give it depth and context.

Then again, it is a translation, which opens up the potential for a lot of subtlety to be lost. And this is the paradox of the translation: the translator cannot avoid putting their own interpretation onto the writer’s original words. I found much of the language to be simplistic and childish, but again, perhaps that was just the nature of the translation.

Or maybe I just didn’t get the novel at all.

Real World is weird, but ultimately, not my kind of weird. It’s a short book though, so if you’re interested in reading translated works, give it a go.

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