Hiromi Kawakami


Sometimes I think the only people writing true Modernist fiction anymore are the Japanese. Why not? They do it well. Here’s a Hiromi Kawakami story from the Paris Review.

The next room is overflowing with humans. My wife and I drop the dead ones down the hole, separate the ones who are going to go back aboveground immediately from those who aren’t, and distribute the gruel.

The humans all look very listless, as if they’re dead. But they aren’t dead. They keep eating away at their surroundings, eating away at themselves; they stay where they are, perfectly motionless —but they don’t die. Here in our hole, unable to become Mogera wogura themselves, as human as ever, they wait for the time when they will be able to go back aboveground.

Some humans die before they are able to go back; then all the others shed tears and writhe about wildly on the floor, and for just a moment their faces, otherwise dead, light up.