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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Ogawa Yoko

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To purchase Revenge

Title: Revenge
Author: Ogawa Yoko
Genre: Novel
Written: 1998 (Eng. 2013)
Length: 162 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Revenge - US
Revenge - UK
Revenge - Canada
Revenge - India
Tristes revanches - France
Das Ende des Bengalischen Tigers - Deutschland
  • Eleven Dark Tales
  • Japanese title: 寡黙な死骸 みだらな弔い
  • Translated by Stephen Snyder

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Our Assessment:

A- : creepy chain of stories that becomes something more; very nicely done

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Economist . 26/1/2013 .
NZZ . 7/7/2011 Leopold Federmair
Publishers Weekly . 12/11/2012 .
San Francisco Chronicle . 8/3/2013 John McMurtrie
TLS . 22/3/2013 Lucy Popescu

  From the Reviews:
  • "(A) short and haunting introduction to her work. (...) Yet there is a steadying effect in her stories through repeating motifs -- a classic technique of Japanese poetry. Rotting food and body parts recur; actors in one story reappear obliquely in others. The result is a spectral connectedness. Ms Ogawa understands the consolations of order within apparent randomness." - The Economist

  • "Hübsches Grauen, höflicher Bericht von Absonderlichem. Hinter solchen Bemerkungen verbirgt sich das Porträt der Autorin. Von allen Zutaten, aus denen sie ihre Geschichten mixt, nimmt sie nie zu viel. Zwischen den knapp und direkt formulierten Ereignissen bleiben Leerräume, durch die der kühlende Wind der Erzählung weht." - Leopold Federmair, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "The thrills are sometimes cheap and the connections between stories membrane thin, but Ogawa makes it count with her precision and dedication to bringing the vision full-circle." - Publishers Weekly

  • "Equally seductive and unsettling, these tales overwhelm the reader with sinister dreamscapes, each exquisitely rendered in cool, precise prose that has been rightfully compared to that of fellow Japanese author Haruki Murakami." - John McMurtrie, San Francisco Chronicle

  • "Using economical and precise language, Ogawa conveys intensity of emotion. (...) Ogawa's landscapes are frequently bizarre and contain startling images" - Lucy Popescu, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The US edition of Revenge is billed as Eleven Dark Tales, but the eleven episodes are connected, a detail from one appearing in the next -- and then eventually more, as the sequence not only comes full-circle but turns out to be self-contained, making it ultimately more novel-like than just a collection of short stories. [The Japanese title, 寡黙な死骸 みだらな弔い, also offers a bit more frisson than the simplistic English one; Google translate suggests as a literal translation: 'Indecent dead quiet funeral', which isn't any more insightful than 'revenge' but certainly is more suggestive of what's on offer here.]
       In Revenge, death is omnipresent, even as it rarely is presented front and center. But whether accidental, incidental, or simple murder, most of these tales turn out to revolve around death. As one character admits: "Everyone I know has died", and death does come to seem unsettlingly commonplace here -- even as it still comes as a surprise how and when it pops up in some of these tales.
       Another character asks: "Why was everyone dying ?" but Ogawa doesn't offer the satisfyingly easy answers a murder mystery might. Some of these deaths are entirely everyday, from old age and disease; others, the senseless tragedies that occur everywhere (as is the case with the death of a boy in the opening story). Even murder is hardly of the satisfying sort here, with motives barely explored. In addition, the deaths themselves are almost all presented as distant, off-scene, or at some remove -- the murder in the apartment above; a death years earlier resurfacing in one form or another; newspaper or other second-hand reports -- even as their effects (and occasionally physical traces) linger, one way or another. When there are more direct encounters with death, often they're only partial -- in one particularly nicely turned story: "I shake it and out falls a tongue" -- or involve animals.
       Ogawa tells these stories with understated calm -- to devastating effect. A thick veneer of Japanese decorum makes for deceptive placidity: characters act properly, yet often turn out to be quite off. Yet even when they snap -- the woman in the first story, trying to go to her son; the murderers -- the narratives, and the lives of the narrators, continue as coolly as always. Almost no one is willing to speak out or go against the grain: life -- and death -- continue like always, even if or as they have been shaken to the core of their existence.
       Arresting images abound: a mountain of kiwis in an old post office, hand-shaped carrots, a Bengal tiger, a protective pouch for a still-beating heart, not to mention various torture devices collected in a museum (all genuine -- meaning they're certain they were: "actually used to torture someone", rather than just for decoration ...). Their sudden appearance -- and also the small bridges between episodes Ogawa builds -- are often particularly well done, and much of the fun of Revenge is in the smaller (and then larger connections). Ultimately beautifully brought full circle, Revenge is about as elegant as horror gets, in both style and presentation.
       Revenge is an exceptionally well-done and well-balanced piece of horror-writing, disarmingly detached -- and all the more unsettling for that.

- M.A.Orthofer, 6 January 2013

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Revenge: Reviews: Other books by Ogawa Yoko under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Ogawa Yoko (小川 洋子) was born in 1962.

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© 2013-2024 the complete review

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