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Mieko Kawakami’s poetic and probing new novel: ‘All The Lovers In The Night’

All The Lovers In The Night, by bestselling author Mieko Kawakami, is sweet, subtle, and leaves a lasting impact. Deeply poetic, confronting, and not least of all probing, Kawakami leaves no stone unturned as she delves into the life of thirty-five-year-old introvert Fuyoko Irie.

All The Lovers In The Night slated for release on May 10 is a brave, beautiful, and poetical novel, that explores and sheds light on the female body, mind, and spirit by fearlessly asking confronting questions about the social dilemmas and demands we face in modern life.  

Set in contemporary Tokyo, Fuyuko lives alone and seems to like it that way. Cast as an outsider for shying away from the things that her ex co-workers consider ‘normal’ Fuyuko removes any chance of having a healthy working environment, so she chooses to leave and become a freelance proofreader. 

Mieko
Credit: Irish Times

The lonely existence of working and living alone,  only further adds to Fuyuko’s unhealthy preference for the avoidance of anything social. Giving her life to working, Fuyuko immerses herself in manuscripts, upon manuscripts, one after the other, as if to fill her head with enough of other people’s thoughts, that it may be enough to keep any unwelcome thoughts of her own at bay. A poetic metaphor for the ways in which we can keep our minds busy, so as to avoid any kind of self-reflection.

But loneliness comes at a cost, and in a bid to put herself out there, she realizes that she needs to change something. Aware of what holds her back, she is afraid to let people in, just as much as she is afraid to take control. But she knows that she can’t go on like this, and it’s with this realization, that she finds fake courage with the help of a beer or two to give her the bravado to step out of her comfort zones. Which she does, and it’s where we follow her as she stumbles through the process of learning how to take control of her life, in a very painful, real, yet poetic way. 

Because Fukyoko longs to be heard and to be seen, she knows that in order to have these things, she is going to have to step out of her comfort zones. It is on one of these outings that Fuyuko has a chance encounter with a physics teacher, Mr. Mitstka, who befriends Fuyuko and gives her the opportunity to step out of her shell just a little to help her find a way to take down the barriers that have kept her life on hold. 

All the Lovers in the Night

Kawakami digs deeply into the very nuances that make us human. Exploring the fundamentals that we all seem to want to block out, but are integral to true personal and spiritual growth, with endless drinking, or any outside noise that prevents us from looking inward and gaining any valuable insight into our lives and who we are.

In a very real and probing way, Kawakami addresses the very thoughts that help us to make sense of who we are, and what it is that is important in our lives, by analyzing the meaning of human connection. 

It is after you finish the last page that All The Lovers In The Night really washes over you.  It leaves you thinking about all of the unnecessary, even painful ways in which we hide from ourselves.  Encouraging you to investigate the way that you relate to the people in your life, and to let go of the past that no longer serves you, so that you can be in the present. But mostly, it leaves you feeling a shared sense of humanity, in that we all have the same hopes, fears, and dreams, and that we all carry a light within us, that can empower us to help us to steer towards a better version of ourselves. Kawakami’s code to live by is ultimately to be brave, and to take full control of your life, and your decisions. This is a very sweet and subtle novel, that leaves a long-lasting impact long after you put it down. 

Mieko Kawakami is currently nominated for an International Booker Prize for her novel Heaven.

All The Lovers In The Night is set to be released May 10 via Pan Macmillan.