‘One Arm’ by Yasunari Kawabata

One Arm by Yasunari Kawabata, 1964

The magic trick:

Immediate presentation of magical realism, demanding the reader accept this reality without questioning

Perhaps the comparison is a bit obvious, but Kawabata style certainly recalls the one his countryman Haruki Murakami would make famous two decades later. Maybe it’s not style; it’s really just magical realism.

The key is the way the narrator speaks plainly to the reader about what are often very strange things as if the reality he is discussing is the only possible reality.
Rather than wasting any time adjusting to this surrealism, the reader gets right down to analyzing and enjoying the story.

It’s as if an entire storytelling layer has been stripped away.

And that’s quite a trick on Kawabata’s part.

The selection:

As I started across the street I pressed my left hand against my raincoat. A horn sounded. Something brushed my side, and I twisted away. Perhaps the arm had been frightened by the horn. The fingers were clenched.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “It was a long way off. It couldn’t see. That’s why it honked.”

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