lunedì 9 aprile 2012
The Briefcase, by Hiromi Kawakami (La cartella del professore)
It's much easier to criticize a book you didn't appreciate, rather than praising one you've truly enjoyed, because after reading and loving a book like I loved "The Briefcase", you are simply lost for words, lost in the lingering atmosphere of the pages, in all the feelings popping up.
I received this book as an Easter gift from my grandmother (my wonderful, beloved grandmother!), I started it yesterday, finished it ten minutes ago. A short book, and a perfect one, sweet and sad and beautiful.
Tsukiko, thirty-eight, works in an office and lives alone. One night, she happens to meet one of her former high school teachers, "Sensei", in a local bar, a kind of bar where food is served too, and this is an important detail because choosing, ordering and sharing food are important matters in the story. Food as a partial substitute for words, as a means to be close and get closer...
His full name was Mr Harutsuna Matsumoto, but I called him ‘Sensei’. Not ‘Mr’ or ‘Sir’, just ‘Sensei’. He was my Japanese teacher in high school. He wasn’t my homeroom teacher, and Japanese class didn’t interest me much, so I didn’t really remember him. Since graduation, I hadn’t seen him for quite a while. Several years ago, we sat beside each other at a crowded bar near the train station, and after that, our paths would cross every now and then. That night, he was sitting at the counter, his back so straight it was almost concave.
In this casual way Tsukiko starts remembering her days with "Sensei". As Tsukiko's narration unfolds, following the flow of the changing seasons, her relationship with the teacher slowly develops into something she gradually acknowledges as love towards this extravagant man who is 30 years her senior. They share details from their past lives and, though some of them may hurt Tsukiko in the beginning (does Sensei still love his dead wife?), in the end the nest they've built for themselves is strong enough to protect them from any harm from the past: as they watch the final parade at Disneyland, they both shed a few tears, maybe moved by different memories. Tsukiko is serene when she expresses this thought, because whatever may have moved them to tears, still they are there together, sharing that moment, loving each other, and that's what matters.
I would like to tell much more but it's hard to do so without ruining all the small treasures hidden in this book...
Hiromi Kawakami's writing is apparently simple because she uses everyday words and expressions, but it's very precise and, word by word, it delicately traces the story of a growing love. Reading the novel, you both want to go on and see how things will develop, and (above all) you want to linger on all words, savour them as Sensei and Tsukiko savour food and sake and tea because in Tsukiko and Sensei's story there's a strong sense of living the moment, there and then, appreciating each small gesture, each word, each fragment of silence.
I hope everyone reading this post will feel curious about this novel, and eager to read it. As for me, I know I've just read one of those books I won't easily leave behind.