The Ten Loves of Nishino by Hiromi Kawakami, translated by Allison Markin Powell [in Booklist]
Despite his name in the title, Nishino never gets a say – except when his words are filtered through the “ten loves” who each narrate a chapter, who each provide glimpses into his character (or lack thereof), and who validate other lovers’ impressions and memories. Nishino remains more an object through which two teens and eight women reveal their own agency – emotionally and sexually, frankly and intimately. Consensus proves Nishino to be a philandering womanizer, but he’s also woefully detached, serially lonely, and irreparably damaged, at least since adolescence when his older sister committed suicide.
Ingeniously presented in chronological disarray – Nishino is in his 40s (spectrally reappearing in his 50s) in the opening chapter, then 14 in the next, 30, 25, etc., until he’s in his final 50s at book’s end – award-winning Hiromi Kawakami’s (Record of a Night Too Brief, 2017) latest is a sly sleight-of-hand that requires careful attention to the women’s voices in reassembling Nishino’s life. Translator Allison Markin Powell, who is responsible for five of Kawakami’s seven-thus-far Japanese-to-English imports, enables savvy readers another opportunity to admire Kawakami’s agile, inventive fiction.
Published: 2019 (United States)