“Impeccably translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd, the book is full of masterly set pieces of violence, scenes of senseless bullying so lucid you can almost feel the pain yourself. To call these moments cinematic is perhaps to do them an injustice. The narrator’s internal world is all we see when the bullies slip a deflated volleyball over his head and kick him until the floor of the empty gymnasium runs with blood. His tormentors are nearly faceless, their violence a force of nature. It seems like something they have always known: how to beat someone without leaving marks, how to torture without being caught.” New York Times
“In novels, as in life, few things are more annoying than irresolution, the need to keep our thought moving rather than lay it to rest. This is the real magic of “Heaven,” which shows us how to think about morality as an ongoing, dramatic activity. It can be maddening and ruinous and isolating. But it can also be shared, enlivened through writing and conversation, and momentarily redeemed through unheroic acts of solidarity, which come more naturally to the children in “Heaven” than to most grownups here on earth.” New Yorker
A sharp and illuminating novel about a fourteen-year-old boy subjected to relentless bullying.
Kawakami’s novel is told in the voice of a fourteen-year-old student subjected to relentless torment for having a lazy eye. Instead of resisting, the boy suffers in complete resignation. The only person who understands what he is going through is a female classmate who suffers similar treatment at the hands of her tormenters. The young friends meet in secret in the hopes of avoiding any further attention and take solace in each other’s company, completely unaware that their relationship has not gone unnoticed by their bullies . . .
Kawakami’s simple yet profound new work stands as a dazzling testament to her literary talent. Here, she asks us to question the fate of the meek in a society that favours the strong, and the lengths that even children will go in their learned cruelty. There can be little doubt that it has cemented her reputation as one of the most important young authors working to expand the boundaries of contemporary Japanese literature.