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Q: Facing difficulties with courage is one of the themes of your latest novel, The Lake. In it the character Nakajima is struggling to overcome sometimes paralyzing emotional trauma that stems from a very unusual ordeal. What compelled you to tell this story?
A: In this novel, I indirectly took up the abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korea, which was the biggest news at the time I was writing. Having heard the words of sorrow from the parents whose children had been abducted and who still had no promise of getting their children back, I created a fable of my own, with my own ideas, in my own way. I also looked into the lives of the children who had been in the cult called Aum Shinrikyo (Aleph) and I thought about their immeasurable trauma as well.
Q:The Lake is, among other things, an unconventional love story, and it makes you question the definition(s) of “romantic love.” How do you define it?
A: The relationship between the main characters of this novel falls far short of romantic love. They are only supporting and leaning on each other, because they would crumble otherwise.
On the other hand, you could say that they are definitely the one and only couple for each other in a way, because wounded people can best be understood by others with the same wounds. Perhaps, they believe that they have the deepest possible bond and mutually feel each is the only person the other can trust. This is one of the most passionate emotions, I guess. By visiting the holy people in the precincts of the Lake, they are entering the world of the subconscious.
Q: Though she has her doubtful moments, and is certainly no push-over (especially when it comes to artistic integrity), Chihiro is almost unfailingly conciliatory and optimistic--a worthy heroine in these cynical times. Who was the inspiration for her character?
A: The character of Nakajima had been the central figure from the beginning, so I thought that he needed a woman character who could add some optimism to his life. There was no particular model for this person though. I just imagined a little hippie-like, openhearted woman, who is powerful both physically and mentally, since she is an artist who works without confining herself to a studio.
Q: Mysticism, of a sort, plays an important role in The Lake, as do dreams. Are these things that influence or otherwise inform your life?
A: Yes, these things influence my life. We all go back and forth between visible and invisible worlds all the time. In that sense, both my life and my novels are very incantational.
Q: You’re known for creating delightfully quirky characters and Mino and Chii are certainly no exception. Can you channel them for a moment and tell us what’s in store for Banana Yoshimoto in the coming months?
A: I will make my life simpler, aiming to have more freedom and fewer responsibilities.
Even though the situation at the Fukushima nuclear plants will not get any worse than it already is, people’s awareness will never be the same.
At some point, I intend to write novels which will help people engage in deep introspection concerning their lives and their way of living. Reading these works will also help them heal the wounds and pain from the disasters.
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