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Hannah’s Pick of the Week: The Hole by Hiroko Oyamada

Book Cover of The Hole by Hiroko Oyamada: title and author name on top of long green grass

I fell into a hole. It was probably four or five feet deep, but I’d managed to land on my feet. I looked around the grass – now at eye level – but the animal was nowhere to be found. I heard the grass rustling nearby, but before long the sound stopped.

Hiroko Oyamada, The Hole

Asahi “Asa” Matsuura becomes truly isolated when she moves with her workaholic husband Muneaki to the countryside in which Muneaki grew up, claustrophobically close to Asa’s emotionally distant in-laws. She is both left to her own devices by an absent husband, and held under the close eye of her heavily gendered and economically-anxious society. After chasing a mysterious animal into a hole that seems built for her (think of a Lynchian Alice in Wonderland), Asa transforms into “the Bride,” and her reality begins to meld to the scream of the summer cicadas and the simmering heat.

Hiroko Oyamada’s Kafkaesque second novella is as absurd and psychological as her debut The Factory. Oyamada herself moved to the countryside while writing The Hole, pulling in her experiences as she went until she was “struck with an idea, through either a trick of the eye or through a dream” (Lit Hub, 2020). Oyamada creates a surreal landscape with the threat of danger always lurking, simmering just below the surface like the summer heat. Inspired by Franz Kafka himself alongside Mario Vargas Llosa, The Hole is a dream morphed by real-world anxieties into something sinister, and a quick read that will have you thinking long after the novella itself is done.

Recommended if you like: the rumination on Japanese proletarian anxieties from Hiroko Oyamada’s The Factory; the atmospheric and exploratory nature of Junji Ito’s horror manga The Enigma of Amigara Fault; and the fantastical micro-fiction in Hiromi Kawakami’s People From My Neighbourhood.

Categories: Books and More

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