Revenge, Yōko Ogawa

cover

Afternoon at the Bakery

The narrator begins the story by describing the common sceneries in a square. She enters a bakery shop but nobody is there. Another customer comes in, claiming that she is the spices supplier for the shop. The narrator tells the new arrival that she is buying her son a treat for his birthday. Every year she buys him the strawberry shortcake; even though he died twelve years ago due to suffocation in an abandoned refrigerator left in an empty place.

While waiting for the shop owner appears, the narrator recalls some of the memories she had done in the past. She used to keep watching the shortcakes that she bought for her son until molds appearing on it. She even emptied the refrigerator and tried to curl herself in it.

The narrator sees a young woman in the kitchen, crying while talking on the telephone. She can call for her and buy the shortcakes but she decides not to interrupt her phone conversation.

Fruit Juice

A male student is studying in the library and approached by his female classmate who he has never spoken before. She asks him to go to a place with her this weekend and he just says yes despite the sudden invitation.

The girl tells him that her mother is sick. If she needs any help, she needs to find the man from the business card that her mother passes to her. She will meet this man with the guy at a French restaurant.

The man appears to be a well-known politician and the guy assumes she is the illegitimate daughter of the man. A few short conversation exchanges during the meal but the entire lunch seems awkward or tense.

On the way home, they encounter an old building which used to be a post office. Strangely, the place is full of kiwi fruits and the girl breaks the chain and enters the building. She takes one of the kiwis and continues eating one after another with her sadness sinking in.

Since then, they never keep in touch although he knows she went to patisserie school. Five or six years later, the guy sees the obituary of the man. He decides to call her when he finds her bakery phone number from the alumni register. He apologizes to her that he didn't offer much help on that day but the girl starts to cry and says she didn't properly thank him at that time although she feels really grateful for his accompany.

Old Mrs. J

The narrator explains that his or her new apartment is at the top of a hill. The hill has various types of fruits but mostly are kiwis. The orchard belongs to the landlady, Mrs. J. There are no workers at the orchard but the trees still cover with beautiful fruits.

One day, all the kiwis disappeared from one section of the orchard. The narrator assumes that the workers had picked the fruits but due to the uncommon working hours, he or she misses them.

A stray cat turns out to be the reason for his or her first gift of vegetables from Mrs. J. When the narrator asks about her husband, Mrs. J says that he's a drunkard and a gambler. He gambled away everything she earns and he was drunk and went missing at the beach.

One day, Mrs. J brings the narrator a carrot in the shape of a hand. On the next day, a strong wind blows throughout the afternoon and night. The narrator sees Mrs. J goes to the orchard with a large box. Despite the strong wind and the heaviness of the box with kiwis, she goes to the abandoned post office at the foot of the hill.

This story ends with the narrator being questioned by the inspector whether he or she meets the landlady's husband before. The narrator tells the inspector of what Mrs. J said and also the scene of her going to the abandoned post office with a heavy box.

The post office was found containing a mountain of kiwis. A mangy body of a cat is found after the clearing of the fruit. A decomposing body in the vegetable patch which confirms by the autopsy that it was Mrs. J's husband and he had been strangled. Traces of his blood are found on her nightgown but the missing hands are never been found.

The Little Dustman

The narrator traps in a train delay due to the mechanical difficulties and the narrator will be late to his or her stepmother's funeral.

The narrator recalls some of their memories together which occurred 30 years ago. Mama is a writer but not a successful one. About five or six years after the divorce, the narrator finds out that Mama won a new writer's prize. Her book is about an old lady who owns an apartment building and grows carrots in the courtyard. The old lady digs up one carrot with the shape of a human hand. In the end, her husband's body is discovered in the garden without the hands.

Later, the narrator finds a picture of Mama was standing next to the old lady holding a carrot in the shape of a hand, and looking uncomfortable. Until now, the narrator has no idea why Mama left them and Mama talks to herself more and more during those years.

Lab Coats

The narrator and the girl work as a secretary at the hospital. One of their tasks is taking the lab coats to the laundry room which located beside the morgue and organizing them according to the different departments.

The girl tells the narrator that her boyfriend who works as a resident in Respiratory Medicine did not show up the night before. The boyfriend promises her that he will tell his in-laws about the divorce although the wife has given birth to their child last month. Unfortunately, he tells her that he never reached there because he was trapped on the train the whole time and have to return without seeing them. The girl doesn't believe his story. The girl is still angry and accuses the wife plotting to get pregnant when he is going to ask for a divorce.

She tells the narrator that he finally shows up after he traps on the train for five hours. The boyfriend tells her that he thinks a lot on the train and something holding him back. He asks her to be patient and waits a bit longer but she doesn't want to wait anymore.

Then, she confesses to the narrator that she killed him. The narrator tries to stay calm. The narrator found one extra lab coat from Respiratory Medicine. The narrator knows it belongs to the doctor and when she shakes the coat, a tongue falls out.

Sewing for the Heart

The story begins with the repetitive announcement in the hospital, requiring Dr. Y from Respiratory Medicine. Due to curiosity, the narrator asks the woman behind the information desk about the announcement. It appears that nobody sees him the whole day. Then, the narrator asks for the directions to the cardiac ward.

The narrator is a bag maker and lives alone above the shop. The narrator can make any kind of bag a customer wants until he or she receives a request to make a bag to hold a heart.

The customer has several uncommon requirements for the bag. She explains that she was born with her heart outside her chest and she needs a bag to protect the heart from bumps or exposure to the air. The bag also has to provide support next to her body and needs to have holes for the veins and arteries and a strap to hang around her neck.

The narrator feels pressure when he or she sees the close-up view of the structure of the heart. The narrator needs to be careful with the measurement work. The arteries and veins look delicate and the heart has a complicated shape and looks vulnerable.

When the first fitting of the bag arrives, the narrator straps the bag on her and it fits into perfection. However, she wants some adjustments to the artery hole and the hook.

The bag is almost finished and the narrator is proud of his or her craftsmanship. Due to the narrator's obsession with the bag, the hamster that he or she owns has died. The narrator doesn't know what to do with it and stops at a hamburger shop. When the narrator tries to get rid of the leftover food, he or she slips the hamster out of the pouch and throws it into the bin.

Later, the customer tells the narrator that she doesn't need the bag anymore as there is a doctor will perform an operation for her.

The story returns to the hospital scene when the narrator is on the way to the cardiac ward. The narrator plans to apologize to her for his or her unusual behavior on the other day. The narrator hopes to see her wearing the bag once again. The narrator visualizes that after fitting the bag on her, she probably wants to get rid of the narrator after that. When the narrator reaches for the bag, the narrator will cut the heart away and keeps it forever.

Welcome to the Museum of Torture

Lots of people died today but it wasn't just humans. The narrator sees a dead hamster in the garbage can at a fast food restaurant in the morning. They all have been so alive yesterday.

The narrator continues with the story of a doctor is murdered who lives in the apartment directly above the narrator. The policeman asks the narrator whether he or she knows or hears anything about the man and the woman who lives there. After answering some of the questions related to the murder, the policeman asks the narrator whether he or she knows the woman from a photo who also got stabbed in the hospital the other day as well. The narrator doesn't know the woman and couldn't provide much information.

The narrator's boyfriend comes to the apartment just in time. The narrator prepares the dinner and even bought the boyfriend's favorite strawberry shortcake at the plaza. They haven't seen each other for three weeks and enjoying their quiet time together until the narrator breaks the silence. The narrator tells him about the murder and the appearance of the reporter and the police. The boyfriend wondering whether the narrator is too excited about the murder and he just leaves the house in an angry manner.

It was a weekday afternoon. The narrator walks aimlessly at the plaza, wondering why she gets such treatment from her boyfriend. She recalls some of her friends got dumped by their boyfriends for minor reasons. When she finally gets tired of walking, she stops in front of an old stone house with a rusted sign "Museum of Torture".

She tries to call for someone but no one comes. When she almost wanted to leave, an old man with a bowtie appears to give her a tour. He asks her whether she's here for the tour or to contribute a weapon for the torture. He tells her that the house was once owned by twin sisters, daughters of a coal baron. They lived well into their eighties and traveled the world assembling this collection.

He explains to her that only instrument has been used before can be considered as genuine whereas a fake instrument is only for decoration. One of the torture instruments is contributed by a bag maker which looks like a corset. It fits over the torso and gradually tightened until the ribs crack and the internal organs are crushed.

While the man explains each torment instrument, the narrator tries to imagine using the instrument to torture her boyfriend. From the conversation, we got to know that the narrator is a beautician. Before the narrator leaves the museum, she is curious about whether the man is interested to use any of the exhibited instruments and she hopes to come back again.

The Man Who Sold Braces

The narrator's uncle has just passed away and he recalls some of the childhood memories when every time the uncle visits the family. Despite the uncle is an unwelcome guest, the narrator always looking forward to his visit as he usually brings an uncommon gift.

The uncle often changes his job and also has been married several times and having affairs between those marriages. He seems never feels sad over his losses or failures.

The narrator remembers that his or her uncle tried to build a plane model once and everything broke apart after that. There was once, the uncle brought a metal brace and put it on him. The narrator feels uncomfortable and having difficulties with breathing. The narrator's uncle advertises the product on newspaper and tries to sell it. When the narrator's mother wants to throw away the metal brace, it was rusted and the screws were fallen apart.

The product is a failure and the narrator's uncle was arrested for fraud due to the fake license. During the narrator's middle school, they heard from his uncle that he is a butler for two elderly ladies, twins who had inherited from their father. The elderly ladies like to travel around buying anything that could be used to inflict pain. According to the narrator's uncle, he needs to take care of the collection and also a Bengal tiger which lives in the garden. His last visit was after the old ladies had died and the house was turned into a museum of torture, for which he was to serve a curator.

The narrator recalls that the trouble begins when the uncle's neighbor complains that he brings underage girls to the museum and doing indecent things to them. In fact, he had been involved with an eighteen-year-old woman, a beautician, who had moved into the museum. The whole thing had eventually blown over although she never filed a complaint against him. In the end, he goes to the jail for a second time due to the embezzlement from the old ladies' estate.

The last time that the narrator sees his uncle is last February, after the parole. His uncle lives in a squalor and surrounded by the pieces and parts of the torture instruments. The last thing the uncle gives to him is a fur coat but it falls apart in the end with the bits and pieces of a tiger's skin.

The Last Hour of the Bengal Tiger

The narrator is playing a mind game to help her to make the decision. She is still thinking about how to confront her husband's mistress while her husband attending a conference related to respiratory medicine. She doesn't really understand her husband's work but she suspects the mistress will know since she's a secretary in a hospital. The narrator describes herself as calm and emotionless even if she sees them naked together.

There is an accident between a truck and a cab over the bridge. The road is covered with tomatoes. While another driver is trying to avoid the tomatoes but she wants to hit them as much as possible. If it is more than ten, she will follow the road which leads her.

On the way to the mistress's apartment, she sees an old stone house. She goes into the house and sees an old man with a Bengal tiger. At first, she hesitates to go nearer but after convinced by the old man, she goes closer and rubs the back of the tiger. The old man holds the tiger and accompanies the tiger until it's last breath. The narrator quietly leaves the garden.

Tomatoes and the Full Moon

The narrator checks in at the front desk. When he opens the door of the room number 101, he finds a woman with a dog sitting on the sofa. The narrator suggests that there is probably a mistake at the front desk. However, when the narrator asks her how she gets into the room, she answers that she comes from the patio to avoid the trouble to go through the lobby. Losing patience, the narrator emphasizes the room belongs to him or her by throwing the bag on the bed. She apologizes and finally stands up and leaves the room.

On the next day, the narrator sees her again but the narrator pretends to not to see her although the narrator is spying on her without the narrator's realization. The woman tries to give a basket of tomatoes to the cook. The cook finally accepts the basket despite feeling awkward at the beginning. Then, she goes to the parking lot and disappears later.

The dining room is crowded but the narrator finds a table near the pillar. The narrator's meal mostly includes tomatoes. While the narrator is in his or her deep thought, the woman comes and interrupts. The narrator tells the woman that he or she is a reporter hired by the hotel to write an article about the hotel. Then, the woman tells the story of the accident happened on the bridge on the day before. She picked up the tomatoes which she found on the road where the accident occurred. When the narrator finishes the food, the woman apologizes and leaves the table.

After a few cocktails, the narrator goes for a walk around the hotel and climbs the hill planted with grapevines. While the narrator sitting on a bench under the full moon, the woman appears and sits on the bench. Her waist still wraps with the dog leash and she still holding the bundle. After asking what the narrator writes, the woman tells the narrator that he looks like the man who saved her life thirty years ago in a snowstorm. From the conversation, we get to know that the narrator has a ten-year-old son and separated from his wife when the son was three. The woman tells her story of a zoo trip with her son. When they were on the way home from the zoo, there was a snowstorm. Luckily, there was a car passed by and the driver who offered to drive them home looks like the narrator.

On the next day, the woman continues her story in the hotel library after the photo session. She tells him that actually the child is her stepson and she never sees him since he's twelve years old. He should be around the narrator's age and the narrator tells her that he has all the parts in the story, both the savior and the son. When asking about her bundle, she tells the narrator that she is a writer and the bundle contains her manuscript. She suspects someone goes after her manuscript because every time she away from home, the things in her house are getting out of order. She even tells him that a hunchback woman publishes a novel exactly the same plot, same characters, and even the same title. When the narrator asks whether her book will be in the library and she takes one book from the shelves with the title 'Afternoon at the Bakery'.

The narrator looking forward to her appearance the next day but she never comes. He reads her book twice and feels amazed with the writing. However, the back cover shows a short biography of the author - her date of birth, titles of her major works, and she had disappeared in 1997. The picture of a woman wore glasses and had a hump on her back.

On the last day, the woman checks out the hotel without saying goodbye or praising the narrator's swimming style one last time. The narrator tries to look for her but her bundle appears on the chair that she usually sits in the morning. Inside the bundle is just blank papers.

Poison Plants

The old lady or the narrator arranges a scholarship with a local banker and offers it to a young boy to study music. However, there is one condition that the boy must fulfill, which is to come to her house every Saturday evening.

She really loves his voice and erotic imaginations keep appearing on her mind. It makes her feels younger and happy. The young boy continues coming to the house every Saturday evening until he grows up.

One day, the narrator falls and lost her way in the wood. During her lost, she thought she heard his voice and she remembers she receives a letter from him. The letter contains a thank you message and also with all the money she had given him for his studies.

As she continues walking, she ends up in the open field. When she stumbles again, she manages to hold on a large refrigerator. She opens the doors and finds someone inside.

This is a masterpiece of darkness. The beginning is the ending and the ending is the beginning. This is such a brilliant piece of work which consists of eleven short stories of different characters with unknown names and gender and all eleven stories are actually connected in a different manner. I was struggling to summarise the stories but at the same time, there were so many details in each story which connect all of them together. It's like playing a jigsaw puzzle, looking for clues in each story and keep looking forward how this story connects with the previous ones. I've never read such a novel before. Incredible.

Rating: ★★★★★
More reviews can be found on Goodreads: Revenge.

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