Popular Japanese writer Yoshimoto Banana (1964-) was born Yoshimoto Mohoko in Tokyo, the daughter of a respected literary critic. Some have speculated that the controversial writer changed her name to honor haiku poet Matsuo Basho ("banana plant").
"Just because I love banana flowers," she explained.
Her first effort, the novella Kitchen (1988), was critically acclaimed and sold over two million copies. Translated and published in more than 20 countries, the best-seller told the touching tale of college student Mikage's search for solace after the death of her beloved grandmother: "Now only the kitchen and I are left. It's just a little nicer than being left all alone."
With rich detail, the novel celebrates love and compassion... and food. "Perhaps because to me a kitchen represents some distant longing engraved on my soul," she wrote. "In places where a loved one has died, time stops for eternity."
The novelist's style is lyrical: "When I looked out from that window each morning at the river, I saw the water glistening, like a million sheets of crushed gold leaf, flowing by. The light within me was something gorgeous like that. I wondered if that was what people in the old days used to call hope."
With offbeat characters and passion, Yoshimoto has blended Japanese tradition with contemporary pop culture. "Over and over," she observed, "we begin again."
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