The Diving Pool – Yoko Ogawa
April 21, 2010 § 20 Comments
So I never sit here hoping for a good dive, and I’m never disappointed by a bad one. Jun’s graceful body cuts through these childish emotions to reach the deepest place inside me.
The Diving Pool is one of three novellas/short stories in the book by the same title. After having read and loved The Housekeeper and the Professor earlier this year, I made up my mind to try this book out. Also because in this book is the story The Pregnancy Diary, which earned Ogawa an Akutagawa Prize. But really, if you’ve read The Housekeeper and the Professor and expecting the same from Ogawa in this book, you’d be in for a mighty surprise.
In just 50 or so pages, Ogawa manages to create an environment that is so tense, I felt like I was constantly trying to keep my head above water. But at the same time, there was an element of melancholy, of sadness, of loneliness – it felt gentle almost. While reading it, I felt like I was getting shocked one moment, then soothed for the next couple of pages, then sent into shock again, only to get soothed once more.
It was sad that someone would be so kind.
I really don’t want to give anything away about the story, not even about the narrator (the story is told in first person), or what actually happens in the story. But for a good part of the story, I was made to think, to feel, to empathise, without feeling like I was forced to havae those feelings and emotions. And I thought, maybe, different people might read differently into the story and its characters, because so much of how you’d feel towards them would depend on your own thought processes and emotional levels.
Please don’t read this paragraph if you’ve not read the book/story: I’m copying this straight from what I wrote in my notebook right after I finished reading the story: Parts where Aya was almost torturing Rie, making her cry on purpose, my heart just contracted, it was a little painful to read about Aya’s “cruel heart.” She didn’t feel nearly as cruel as a person, and so during those times, I found myself wondering why she would want to do that to Rie, what gratification did she get out of it? The ending for me was also a little vague, and threw me off balance. If Jun knew everything all along, why didn’t he do anything about it? Especially since Aya observed that he had a “sincerity” to him. It felt like a contradiction of sorts, because while Aya was being “physically cruel” by doing those things to Rie, Jun felt to me to be “emotionally/mentally cruel”, because he let Aya continue doing those things, while at the same time, pretending(?) to care so much for Rie’s well-being. End.
I really liked how eerie the story felt; how there were secrets laid upon secrets, how feelings were masked or expressed.
* Note: I had continued to read the second story, Pregnancy Diary, immediately after penning down my thoughts, but two pages into that second story and I knew I had to put the book down for a bit if I wanted to be fair. The Diving Pool had given me such a strong impression, especially the narrator, that I had unconsciously carried her into the second story. I’ve since had to return the book to the library, so it might be a while before I get to the 2 other stories in this book. But I’m definitely keen to finish it.