Sunday, March 29, 2009

No Memories

Yoko Ogawa is a Japanese author of more than 20 novels and works of non-fiction. Her second novel to be translated in English is “The Housekeeper and the Professor”, translated by Stephen Snyder. This is one of those special novels that is original in its plot and written with understated prose that can mesmerize the reader.

A single mother of a ten year old boy who works as a housekeeper is sent by her employer to work for a disabled professor of Mathematics. The professor had suffered a brain injury in a car accident that left him with only 80 minutes of short term memory and he can not remember anything that happened after 1975. He spends his days doing intricate math formulas which he enters into contests. He pins notes to the suit he wears everyday to remind him of what he needs to remember from day to day.

The story, narrated by the housekeeper, revolves around the poignant relationship that develops between the housekeeper, her son and the professor. The professor insists that the boy come to his house everyday after school and nick names him “Root“ because the boy’s head reminded him of the square root sign. But the housekeeper and her son must reintroduce themselves each day to the professor. Despite his memory problems the professor has retained his overwhelming love for numbers and elegant equations. He draws the housekeeper and her son into his beloved world of mathematics by teaching them how to solve equations. And the three discover their common love of baseball. The professor loves the averages and statistics that define the sport and both Root and the Professor love the national team, the “Tigers”.

This unique story is about memory, mathematics, baseball and love. There is an underlying theme throughout the novel asking whether one can truly love without memory. Yoko Ogawa is a writer who knows how to engage a reader with humor and clear, straight forward prose that calms and lures the reader into her world. Whether you are a lover of math or baseball doesn’t matter, Yoko Ogawa has woven these subjects into a beautifully touching story.

1 comment:

  1. I also read/reviewed this lovely story. Couldn't agree more with your review!