March 30, 2012 10:18 pm

Narratives from the wreckage

A fine story collection that explores the impact of last year’s tragedy in Japan

March Was Made of Yarn: Writers Respond to Japan’s Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Meltdown, edited by Elmer Luke and David Karashima, Harvill Secker, RRP£12.99, 240 pages

 

In this fine story collection, writers explore the impact of last year’s tragedy in Japan.

David Peace looks to history, setting “After the Disaster, Before the Disaster” in the aftermath of the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923. He quotes eyewitnesses, including a young Akira Kurosawa, whose brother advised him not to avert his eyes from the wreckage of Tokyo: “If you look at everything straight on, there is nothing to be afraid of.”

Other contributors seem understandably reluctant to look “straight on”, seeking refuge instead in magical realism. A talking bear discusses radiation poisoning in Hiromi Kawakami’s “God Bless You, 2011”; in Shinji Ishii’s “Lulu”, ghostly women comfort orphans. But there is a tentative optimism here, too. In “Little Eucalyptus Leaves”, Ryu Murakami writes that “buds of hope are popping out, one by one”.

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