You many have noted our review of acclaimed novel Breasts and Eggs last year, and already Mieko Kawakami is back with a witty and illuminating novel about a fourteen-year-old boy subjected to relentless bullying. Heaven is raw and brutal at moments. However, the in depth philosophising of the suffering of the perceived weak adds question, debate, exploration around those formidable scenes.
Hailed as a bold foray into new literary territory, Kawakami’s novel is told in the voice of a fourteen-year-old student subjected to relentless torment for having a lazy eye. Surprisingly, the boy suffers in complete resignation. The only person who understands what he is going through is a female classmate who suffers similar treatment at the hands of her tormenters, and reacts in a similar manner.
He meets with Kojima in secret in the hopes of avoiding any further attention and, yet, finding solace in each other’s company. However, their relationship and meets have not gone unnoticed by their bullies, which creates heightened and visceral confrontation like no other bullying scene prior.
Kawakami notably creates depth and scope throughout her novels, and Heaven is no different. Through the dialogue between the two bullied characters and those with one particular bully, the writer allows the reader to engage with the notion of bullying, what allows it to continue, and how it can be stopped and prevented. The author’s ability to engage with the reader, opening the door for pondering and exploration is refreshing and bountiful.
Kawakami’s simple, short and yet profound new work stands as a dazzling testament to her literary talent. Here, she asks us to question the fate of the meek in a society that favours the strong, and the lengths that even children will go in their learned cruelty. Her scope and verisimilitude, as well as the significance of content and themes arising will consequently heighten further anticipation for her future work. There can be little doubt that Heaven has cemented her reputation as one of the most important active writers working to expand the boundaries of contemporary Japanese literature. Attaching universality to the cultural background of her novels, Kawakami will venture far, as long as her novels are to this standard.
Heaven is out on 10th June 2021, published by Picador