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The Diving Pool: Three Novellas

The Diving Pool: Three Novellas

Автором Yoko Ogawa

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The Diving Pool: Three Novellas

Автором Yoko Ogawa

3.5/5 (36 оценки)
136 pages
2 hours
Jan 22, 2008


The first major English translation of one of contemporary Japan's bestselling and most celebrated authors

From Akutagawa Award-winning author Yoko Ogawa comes a haunting trio of novellas about love, fertility, obsession, and how even the most innocent gestures may contain a hairline crack of cruel intent.

A lonely teenage girl falls in love with her foster brother as she watches him leap from a high diving board into a pool--a peculiar infatuation that sends unexpected ripples through her life.

A young woman records the daily moods of her pregnant sister in a diary, taking meticulous note of a pregnancy that may or may not be a hallucination--but whose hallucination is it, hers or her sister's?

A woman nostalgically visits her old college dormitory on the outskirts of Tokyo, a boarding house run by a mysterious triple amputee with one leg.

Hauntingly spare, beautiful, and twisted, The Diving Pool is a disquieting and at times darkly humorous collection of novellas about normal people who suddenly discover their own dark possibilities.

Jan 22, 2008

Об авторе

Yoko Ogawa is the author of The Diving Pool, The Housekeeper and the Professor, and Hotel Iris. Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, A Public Space, and Zoetrope. Since 1988 she has published more than twenty works of fiction and nonfiction, and has won every major Japanese literary award. Her novel The Housekeeper and the Professor has been adapted into a film, The Professor’s Beloved Equation. She lives in Ashiya, Japan, with her husband and son.

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The Diving Pool - Yoko Ogawa


The Diving Pool

It’s always warm here: I feel as though I’ve been swallowed by a huge animal. After a few minutes, my hair, my eyelashes, even the blouse of my school uniform are damp from the heat and humidity, and I’m bathed in a moist film that smells vaguely of chlorine.

Far below my feet, gentle ripples disrupt the pale blue surface of the water. A constant stream of tiny bubbles rises from the diving well; I can’t see the bottom. The ceiling is made of glass and is very high. I sit here, halfway up the bleachers, as if suspended in midair.

Jun is walking out on the ten-meter board. He’s wearing the rust-colored swimsuit I saw yesterday on the drying rack outside the window of his room. When he reaches the end of the board, he turns slowly; then, facing away from the water, he aligns his heels. Every muscle in his body is tensed, as if he were holding his breath. The line of muscle from his ankle to his thigh has the cold elegance of a bronze statue.

Sometimes I wish I could describe how wonderful I feel in those few seconds from the time he spreads his arms above his head, as if trying to grab hold of something, to the instant he vanishes into the water. But I can never find the right words. Perhaps it’s because he’s falling through time, to a place where words can never reach.

Inward two-and-a-half in the tuck position, I murmur.

He misses the dive. His chest hits the water with a smack and sends up a great spray of white.

But I enjoy it just the same, whether he misses a dive or hits it perfectly with no splash. So I never sit here hoping for a good dive, and I am never disappointed by a bad one. Jun’s graceful body cuts through these childish emotions to reach the deepest place inside me.

He reappears out of the foam, the rippling surface of the water gathering up like a veil around his shoulders; and he swims slowly toward the side of the pool.

I’ve seen pictures from underwater cameras. The frame is completely filled with deep blue water, and then the diver shoots down, only to turn at the bottom and kick off back toward the surface. This underwater pivot is even more beautiful than the dive itself: the ankles and hands slice through the water majestically, and the body is completely enclosed in the purity of the pool. When the women dive, their hair flutters underwater as though lifted in a breeze, and they all look so peaceful, like children doing deep-breathing exercises.

One after the other, the divers come slipping into the water, making their graceful arcs in front of the camera. I would like them to move more slowly, to stay longer, but after a few seconds their heads appear again above the surface.

Does Jun let his body float free at the bottom of the pool, like a fetus in its mother’s womb? How I’d love to watch him to my heart’s content as he drifts there, utterly free.

I spend a lot of time on the bleachers at the edge of the diving pool. I was here yesterday and the day before, and three months ago as well. I’m not thinking about anything or waiting for something; in fact, I don’t seem to have any reason to be here at all. I just sit and look at Jun’s wet body.

We’ve lived under the same roof for more than ten years, and we go to the same high school, so we see each other and talk any number of times every day. But it’s when we’re at the pool that I feel closest to Jun—when he’s diving, his body nearly defenseless in only a swimsuit, twisting itself into the laid-out position, the pike, the tuck. Dressed in my neatly ironed skirt and freshly laundered blouse, I take my place in the stands and set my schoolbag at my feet. I couldn’t reach him from here even if I tried.

Yet this is a special place, my personal watchtower. I alone can see him, and he comes straight to me.

I pass the shops near the station and turn from the main road onto the first narrow street heading south, along the tracks. The noise and bustle die away. It’s May now, and even when I reach the station after Jun’s practice, the warmth of the day lingers in the air.

After I pass the park—little more than a sandbox and a water fountain—the company dormitory, and the deserted maternity clinic, there’s nothing to see but rows of houses. It takes more than twenty-five minutes to walk home, and along the way the knot of people who left the station with me unravels and fades away with the sunlight. By the end, I’m usually alone.

A low hedge runs along the side of the road. It eventually gives way to trees, and then the cinder-block wall, half covered with ivy, comes into view. In the places where the ivy doesn’t grow, the wall has turned moss green, as if the blocks themselves were living things. Then the gate, standing wide open, held back by a rusted chain that seems to prevent it from ever being closed.

In fact, I have never seen it closed. It’s always open, ready to welcome anyone who comes seeking God in a moment of trouble or pain. No one is ever turned away, not even me.

Next to the gate is a glass-covered notice board with a neon light, and on it is posted the Thought for the Week: WHO IS MORE PRECIOUS? YOU OR YOUR BROTHER? WE ARE ALL CHILDREN OF GOD, AND YOU MUST NEVER TREAT YOUR BROTHER AS A STRANGER. Every Saturday afternoon, my father spends a long time looking through the Bible before carefully grinding ink on his stone and writing out this Thought. The smell of the ink permeates the old box where he keeps his brushes and grinding stone. He pours a few drops from the tiny water pot into the well of the stone, and then, holding the ink stick very straight, he grinds the stick into a dark liquid. Only when he finishes this long process does he finally dip his brush. Each gesture is done slowly, almost maddeningly so, as if he were performing a solemn ritual, and I am always careful to creep quietly past his door to avoid disturbing him.

Attracted to the neon light, countless tiny insects crawl on the notice board among my father’s perfectly formed characters. At some point, evening has turned to night. The darkness inside the gate seems even thicker than outside, perhaps due to the dense foliage that grows within. Trees are planted at random along the wall, their branches tangled and overgrown. The front yard is covered in a thick jumble of weeds and flowers.

In this sea of green, two massive ginkgo trees stand out against the night sky. Every autumn, the children put on work gloves to gather the nuts. As the oldest, Jun climbs up on one of the thick branches and shakes the tree, and then the younger children run around frantically amid the hail of nuts and dried yellow leaves. Passing near the trees always makes me think of the soft skins surrounding the nuts, squashed like caterpillars on the soles of the children’s shoes, and of the horrible odor they spread through the house.

To the left of the ginkgo trees is the church, and at an angle beyond, connected by a covered corridor, the building we call the Light House. This is my home.

The pale blue moisture I absorbed in the stands at the pool has evaporated by the time I reach here; my body is dry and hollow. And it is always the same: I can never simply come home the way other girls do. I find myself reading the Thought for the Week, passing through the gate, entering the Light House—and something always stops me, something always seems out of place.

Sometimes, as I approach, the Light House appears fixed and acute, while I, by contrast, feel vague and dim. At other times, I feel almost painfully clear and sharp, while the Light House is hazy. Either way, there is always something irreconcilable between the house and me, something I can never get past.

This was my home. My family was here. Jun, too. I remind myself of these facts each time I surrender to the curtain of green and open the door of the Light House.

When I try to put my memories in some kind of order, I realize that the earliest ones are the clearest and most indelible.

It was a brilliant morning in early summer. Jun and I were playing by the old well in the backyard. The well had been filled in long before and a fig tree planted over it. We must have been four or five years old, so it was soon after Jun had come to live at the Light House. His mother had been a chronic alcoholic, and he had been born out of wedlock, so one of our loyal parishioners had brought him to us.

I had broken off a branch from the fig tree and was watching the opalescent liquid ooze from the wound. When I touched it, the sticky emission clung to my finger. I broke another branch.

Time for milky! I said to Jun.

I made him sit on my lap, and I wrapped an arm around his shoulders as I brought the branch to his lips. Nothing about Jun’s body then hinted at the muscular form later shining in the transparent water of the pool. My arms remember only the softness of an ordinary small child. Like a baby at the breast, he pursed his lips and made little chirping sounds, even wrapping his hands around mine as if he were clutching a bottle. The milk of the fig had a bitter, earthy smell.

I felt myself suddenly overcome by a strange and horrible sensation. It might have been the fig milk or the softness of Jun’s body bringing it on, but that seemed to be the beginning—though I suppose it’s possible this terrible feeling took hold of me even earlier, before I was even

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  • (5/5)
    Stunning. Yoko Ogawa is an incredibly evocative writer, and Stephen Snyder does brilliant job with the translation. All three stories in this novella were elegantly written and just a little disturbing.
  • (3/5)
    3.5 stars
    Japanese writers have skills for making the simple and mundane things interesting and poetic. I have no idea what to expect with this book but it did not disappoint me. The stories do not contain complicated scenes but the turning points of it are remarkable. Each stories draw feelings. One more thing, it is absurd and awry.

    My reactions based on the novellas:

    The Diving Pool
    I did not expect that will happen.

    Pregnancy Diary
    I had the instinct how it will end but I hoped for another one.

    I expect something cruel or absurd things to happen. idk lol.
    If you don't like stories without conclusions, this is not for you.
  • (4/5)
    These three novellas were so well written. The description provided was so on target. Just enough information was provided to present a very uncomfortable story. The length of each encouraged me to think about each story, and why what happened happened. Also, the length let me draw many of my own conclusions.
  • (4/5)
    Interesting stories of quiet anger and irrational fears. I don’t know how to feel about them.
  • (4/5)
    The diving pool is a collection of three short stories of the Japanese author, Yoko Ogawa. In each of the three stories there is a decided preponderance of food and on the human body. Somewhat comparable to the chute in French novels, that is to say an unexpected turn, each story in The diving pool is characterised by a sinister twist.The first story, "The Diving Pool" is perhaps the most beautiful. The descriptions of the male swimmers' body are quite erotic. The twist in the story is surprising, and makes the reader wonder with what pre-meditation or deliberation the act of kindness, or generosity was made. The casualness of the description suggests impulse, but the accusation at the end seems to see through that innocense.The second story, "Pregnace Diary" seems to build up too slowly. This story has a much stronger sense of intentional malice, and the scope of the cruelty is determined in the mind of the reader, whether it is limited to physical pain or permanent deformation.In the final story, "Dormitory", the physique of one of the characters is somewhat absurd. This story is perhaps strongest in building up suspense.All three stories in The diving pool are highly original in the twisted outcome and the way the body and food are connected. The main theme of each of the story is love, although not in the usual relations of lovers. The stories are easy to read and enjoyable.
  • (2/5)
    I first encountered Ogawa years ago when I read her short story "The Cafeteria in the Evening and a Pool in the Rain" in the New Yorker. That story was wonderfully atmospheric and dreary: a beautiful little piece that stayed with you. The novellas (can they even be called that? they're more like short stories) in "The Diving Pool" are similarly atmospheric but unlike "Cafeteria", they're instantly forgettable. There's something quietly sinister about the stories, but tbh they're just not that interesting or substantive. The last story ("The Dormitory") is engaging and creepy, but despite its excellent premise, the ending is a huge let-down. Don't get me wrong-- I think Ogawa is a good writer, but this collection is SO short. A larger collection might have featured some stronger stories and a more balanced vision.
  • (4/5)
    This is the second book I have read by this leading Japanese author. After recently reading her wonderful book “The Housekeeper and the Professor” I started looking for her other translated works.
    This is a collection of 3 novellas, all marked by her simple elegant prose. My favourite was the title story, about a teenage girl whose religious parents run a home (the ‘Light House’) for orphans and abandoned children. She feels out of sync with her family and her home. “Sometimes, as I approach, the Light House appears fixed and acute, while I, by contrast, feel vague and dim. At other times, I feel almost painfully clear and sharp, while the Light House is hazy. Either way, there is always something irreconcilable between the house and me, something I can never get past.” She has a crush on one of the teenage boys in her home with whom she has grown up. “I was the only one who had seen the expressions on his face at these moments, and I kept those images locked away like a bundle of precious letters.” He is a diver, and she loves to watch him from the corners and shadows. She feels closest to him, there at the pool. She is lonely and alienated from her family. She describes her voluble mother: “Particularly talkative during dinner, she was not one to cast about for topics that would include everyone, preferring to talk about herself and her interests from the moment we sat down until the meal was over. As she would grow increasingly excited and out of breath, I often wondered whether she in fact hated herself for talking so much. … Her lips were like two maggots that never stopped wriggling, and I found myself wanting to squash them between my fingers.” The reader starts to feel sympathy for her, but then is brought up short by sprays of thin strands of cruelty. Ogawa keeps gently pushing the reader along with her descriptions that make you stop and look again. “…along the way the knot of people who left the station with me unravels and fades away with the sunlight.” and “Sunlight covered the ground like a shower of gold dust.”
    In “The Pregnancy Diary” the descriptions of the emotions, the morning sickness, and cravings of pregnancy were deftly drawn and twisted a bit, the result slightly oddly funny, or funnily odd, and even a bit touching.
    I initially thought this collection was about a 3 to 3 ½, but in re-reading parts of them, and thinking again about them, trying to puzzle them out (because they are all a bit odd and sometimes a tad creepy), I find her writing is definitely growing on me, and I’d give it a 4. I’m on the lookout for another one by her.
  • (2/5)
    This is a collection of three novellas, originally published separately.The Diving Pool is a well-constructed story, with a good balance that builds nicely to the climax. It works very well as a coming of age story.The second story, Pregnancy Diary, bored me. Something very early on in the story telegraphed the ending to me. I really did not care to go through all that it took to get there. I tried hard not to skim.Dormitory, the last of the three, was also the least of the three. It in the vein of stories by Saki H.H. Mu
  • (3/5)
    Definitely strange. The writing is simple. The stories are creepy. I can't say I like them, exactly, though they certainly leave an impression. I think I liked the last story the best.
  • (1/5)
    This is the third book I have read by the author. The first, The Housekeeper and the Professor, is a beautiful story with compelling characters. The second, Hotel Iris, was a bizarre and disturbing story with compelling characters. This book is a set of three novellas. I found it just bizarre and disturbing. I did not even find the characters compelling. So, I really did not enjoy it at all.
  • (4/5)
    I’ve often been tempted to try Yoko Ogawa’s books – my work colleague has repeatedly told me that The Housekeeper and The Professor is a must read and I’ve picked up her books in bookshops many times, yet put them back due to price. I was pleasantly surprised that my local library had a copy of The Diving Pool not only on the shelf but in a condition that suggested nobody’s lunch had ever been spilled on it! (Always a bonus).The Diving Pool contains three novellas and can easily be read in a day. The first story, The Diving Pool, is about a girl who lives with many foster brothers and sisters. Every day, she watches her foster brother practise diving. Unfortunately, she is not as nice to her other siblings…The second story, The Pregnancy Diaries, is a diary of a young woman living with her sister and her brother-in-law. The diary starts as the sister announces she is pregnant, but the sister has all sorts of strange things going on…The final story, Dormitory, is about a young woman about to depart for Sweden. She reminisces to her cousin about her college days in a dormitory. He goes to live there when he starts college, but mysterious things are happening. The caretaker is a triple amputee and the students are disappearing…All three stories are written beautifully and sparsely, leaving you to make up your own mind to what may have actually happened. All facets of human nature are laid bare from jealousy to cruelty. There’s an element of the gothic or horror to each story. When trying to explain this book to a friend, her response was ‘you read weird stuff’ but I think Japanese literature is a lot more brutally honest in its assessment of the human psyche.I look forward to reading one of Ogawa’s novels soon.Read it if: you enjoy the slightly creepy and can handle people doing strange things.
  • (3/5)
    A friend sent me Yoko Ogawa's The Diving Pool after I read and enjoyed The Housekeeper and the Professor, a sweet novel about a woman and her son, and their unique relationship with a mathematics professor. This book, The Diving Pool, is a group of three novellas, and it is so different from [The Housekeeper and the Professor] that it is difficult to believe that they are by the same author.The first novella, The Diving Pool, is about a teenage girl who falls in love with her step-brother. She watches his diving practice everyday after school, slipping out at the end before he can see her. At first this seems like a cute first crush, but things soon take an obsessive turn.The second novella, Pregnancy Diary, is told throught he diary of a young woman living with her pregnant sister and brother-in-law. Again, things start out rather normally, but soon become disturbing.The third novella, Dormitory, is about a woman who returns to her college residence years after her graduation. This dorm has fallen into disrepair, and the narrator is sucked into the rather sinister life of the crippled Manager of the building.Ogawa's prose (and the work of her translator) is beautiful. She is a master at creating a mood - all of these stories made me feel rather creeped out - and at exploring the inner workings of the human mind. Her prose is detailed, yet sparse; she is an author who knows how to get the most out of just a few words.So why, then, the low 2.5 star rating? Each of these stories has huge potential. They set up an obsessive character, give these characters destructive habits, and then right when the reader thinks something terrible is going to happen.... they end. Three times I felt my imagination kick into gear, felt as though some horriffic event was going to occur, and then each time I was let down. Nothing happened. These stories all had such potential, but Ogawa never took that last step. She made the horrible mundane, or just simply avoided the implecations of her characters' actions. Don't let this book be your only attempt at Ogawa's bibliography - The Housekeeper and the Professor was very good, and I will definitely search out more of her books.
  • (3/5)
    I didn’t love this slim volume with three short stories, unfortunately. The writer, and characters, seemed obsessed with gooey and yucky things like the following typical snippet of conversation:“Doesn’t the sauce on the macaroni remind you of digestive juices?” she murmured. I ignored her and took a sip of water. “So warm and slimy? The way it globs together?” and on and on, in the same vein.It was a bit icky and creepy, but one has to give Ogawa her due. The last story read like a thriller and I literally found myself holding my breath while reading.On the whole, I'm amazed at her ability to write something as beautiful as The Housekeeper + The Professor and then this almost nauseating set of stories, on the other extreme.No recommendation for this one, but a hearty double recommendation for The Housekeeper + the Professor from me!
  • (4/5)
    Three eerie, beautiful 'novellas' (in terms of length, they seem more like short stories) which equally disturb and entrance.
  • (3/5)
    From this collection of three "novellas" (really, they are just short stories, printed in a large font), it is not easy to see how Yoko Ogawa has won "every major Japanese literary award." She has a very acute sense of sickening smells, oozy things (yoghurt, a baby's "buttery" thighs, past sauce that looks like intestinal juices), slippery wet clothes, the maggoty look of kiwi fruits, rancid cream puffs, and many other such things. She relies too much on them -- her characters live in a world of faintly pustulent, always redolent, sometimes gorgeously overripe flesh, and her narrators experience and describe their world exclusively through sensations. One thing that means is that they don't talk much. Conversations are oddly emotionless and empty, and relationships are nearly mute, or autistic, as if rank smells and fleshy textures had taken the place of language. Having said that, the second story has an astonishingly excellent last line, and all three are, as the dust jacket says, memorable. I will be reading more of her: I just hope she shows more range.
  • (4/5)
    Disturbing and mind-boggling set of stories that leaves one considering the darker inclinations in all of us.
  • (4/5)
    not that eerie. not haunting at all. but definitely intriguing. maybe something is lost in translation? i'd like to read the original text..at least of the diving pool, which i thought was the most focused of the three novellas.it's an interesting book on the whole. the stories fit well together as a collection. i'd like to read more by her.
  • (2/5)
    A collection of three novellas, each of them about what happens when something disturbs the routine lives of their protagonists: a troubled teen has a crush on her foster-brother; a young woman notes her pregnant sister's mood changes; and another young woman starts returning to her student dormitory. According to the book's blurb these stories are billed as 'eerie' and 'haunting' - and about how close to the surface our dark sides are. The third one did have the feel of a horror story, but other than that I didn't find this at all. They were certainly a bit grotesque, but I got bored quite quickly with the listless, detached protagonists.