Bullied and Shunned, They Found a New Way to See the World

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By Nadja Spiegelman

By Mieko Kawakami
Translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd

Have you allowed yourself to forget, perhaps for the purposes of survival, the intense clarity with which you saw the world at 14? I don’t mean the strength of the emotions you felt, the ones that linger with us as adults in manageable, washed-out shades — lust, love, shame, rage. I mean the way that the arbitrary injustice of the world, and its cruel divisions — rich and poor, weak and strong — made themselves starkly apparent. The Japanese novelist Mieko Kawakami has not forgotten. “We often talk about death being absolute,” she told The Guardian last year, “but I can’t help but think that being born is no less final.” Her characters grapple with the most fundamental obscenity: that of being alive at all.

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