Guide Hotel Iris: A Novel

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A widower, there are whispers around town that he may have murdered his wife. Mari begins to visit him on his island, and he soon initiates her into a dark realm of both pain and pleasure, a place in which she finds herself more at ease even than the translator. As Mari's mother begins to close in on the affair, Mari's sense of what is suitable and what is desirable are recklessly engaged. The doors want to eat you. Fear the doors.

This book is beautifully written, but totally fucked. You can see all the little wormies wriggling around inside teency-cutesy Ogawa's creeptastic, hall-of-mirrors nightmare skull, and you rightly squirm. Not my kinda subject in this instance, but definitely my kinda gal in general. More, please. View all 24 comments. Equally intoxicating and disquieting, Hotel Iris is the story of Mari, a 17 year-old girl, her sexual awakening in the hands of a 67 year-old Russian Translator and their consuming sadomasochistic affair that tests the limits of love and desire.

Like the powerful voice of the Translator, which Mari finds so spell bounding, Ogawa slowly coaxes us out of our reservations by showing a voice so si Equally intoxicating and disquieting, Hotel Iris is the story of Mari, a 17 year-old girl, her sexual awakening in the hands of a 67 year-old Russian Translator and their consuming sadomasochistic affair that tests the limits of love and desire. Like the powerful voice of the Translator, which Mari finds so spell bounding, Ogawa slowly coaxes us out of our reservations by showing a voice so simple yet confident that we are left following her lead in a daze.

Her words cut laser-like through the whole thing as if narrating nothing more than an innocent love story between a man and a girl, not even pausing to consider all the grimy details and the grey-area implications. And it is easy to suffocate amidst all the clear depictions of twisted decadence that it offers, pages with soundless screams of pleasure and paragraphs filled with distorted expressions of love. Yet in spite of all this, there lingers a curious tenderness between Mari and her Translator.

A brave writer who's here to stay

And what unsettles more than the graphic descriptions is the voyeuristic nature of the narrative that in someway desecrates the sacred privacy of two very fragile people trying to express to each other their hatred of the world who ignored them and never gave them a second look.

Finding in each other the perfect outlet, each with a different form of expressing their hate, but both coming together to meet the needs of the other. There is undoubtedly a gloomy sort of beauty in the way these two people devoid of self-worth find comfort in discovering that there exists someone who needs them. Somehow the fascinating relationship between Dominant and Submissive struck me as very strikingly similar to that of a Writer and Reader, especially in this case.

Here we have a writer who makes it a point to push us to the very brink of our ethics with her words.

Here I am, a reader, filled with unease yet obediently taking every word thrown upon me, even deriving some sort of wicked pleasure from the scenes they convey. It is a very curious affair, that of a writer and reader. To choose to read the words of someone is to give power to that person over you. Is it absolute authority? Not a chance. However every reader takes a vulnerable leap of faith and a certain trust is placed in the hands of the writer, every word an absolute, every period an unbreakable wall.

We experience a whole range of emotions from pain, to sadness, to happiness all at the command of someone else and we derive pleasure from those words. Are we not all literary submissives? Are we not all in prostrate surrender till we gain the courage to write our own words and thus finally dominate those would care to read? Maybe I am reaching too much, maybe my imagination is too strong. Maybe this review is my revenge against my literary submissiveness, but then again maybe this is the manifestation of my domination over you.

But probably not. At the end of the day this little novella is not asking for an exercise in moral fastidiousness. This is a little novella meant to convey a simple story with maybe no greater desire than to jolt us awake with its brand of painful passion.

Indeed it is a powerful reminder of the terrifying potential of literature displaying romance, something we consider beautiful, in its most disfigured face. Asking us to consider how suffering and pleasure, hatred and love, even reading and writing, as not two different things altogether but two ends of the same stick connected by a body that is asking to be explored. View all 6 comments. I finished the novel in two sittings. It is very racy - at least i found it that way - and has an engaging plot.

But after having finished the story, I am not sure what to make of it. There are and can be many interpretations. May be it is a psychological probe into the nature of love, and especially to that aspect which is 'untranslatable'. In this story a young girl of seventeen 'falls in love' with 67 year old man translator by profession and this man subjects her to all kind of sexual humil I finished the novel in two sittings. In this story a young girl of seventeen 'falls in love' with 67 year old man translator by profession and this man subjects her to all kind of sexual humiliations.

Be warned: There are graphic descriptions about sexual violence. It is revolting for an ordinary person. But the girl finds in it ecstasy. Taking into account the fact that the girl has only her mother and the female servant for company, can we understand her willingness to submit to the old man a longing for the lost father? Is there anything opposite of Oedipus Rex Complex?

If so, is this novel treating that as the main theme? Even then, will daughter fantasize so cruelly about her father?

Hotel Iris — Yoko Ogawa

No idea. Sometimes, I felt that this is a story about translation. The male protagonist is a translator from Russian to Japanese. The girl gets attracted to him by hearing his voice. The name of the girl in the Russian novel that is under translation is the same as the girl protagonist. Only the spellings differ. Fictional character is Marie and the real character is Mari. The translator's effort in tearing out every piece of cloth from the girl may indicate to getting to the bottom of the original text.

Because the violence takes place only in the place where the translator is usually engaged in translating. He does not want her to get another opinion from another person of the same event narrated by the translator translator's jealousy! When she does he is furious. The final product of translation is necessarily a changed version, hardly closer to the original the disfigured girl at the end.

This act is always considered a crime at least in the mind of the translator. The translator dies at the end leaving only his far-from-perfect-product. I am not sure. May be, I am reading too much into it. This story, however, left me in a confused state. View all 5 comments. From the age of 12, I have been obsessed with assorted novels revealing love affairs flanked by adolescent girls and older men. I do not know the precise cause of my addiction, but the sinister juvenile seduction still tantalizes my imagination. So, From the age of 12, I have been obsessed with assorted novels revealing love affairs flanked by adolescent girls and older men.

So, when I selected Hotel Iris, I grinned at my literary dosage of unsophisticated seduction, highly unaware of the disillusionment stored ahead.

Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa

Initiated on the lines of 'The Lover', the narrative ineffectively proceeds into a murky atmosphere of sexual supremacy and secrecy. Ogawa spins a story about Mari and her sexual sadistic lover- a Russian translator in the midst of a scenic Japanese island among numerous ferocious BDSM sessions. Entrancing as it sounds; the tale of a 17 year old Japanese girl taking pleasure in being a sexual slave to a 67yr old closet sexual aggressor is a careless attempt to be Duras.

Mari does not come through as seductive or fragile lass. The characterization of each protagonist fails miserably leaving the confrontations dreary. The ineffectiveness of the narrative slithers out as soon the Japanese bondage, sexual frolics fail to electrify your nerves let alone being pulsating from them. Moreover the underlying mystery about the reclusive Russian is misplaced amid the chaotic array of sexual nuances and feeble recovery of the criminal component in the script leaves a trail of skepticism over the designated plot stuck between erotica and mystery. Assertions of Ogawa being the latest Marguerite Duras are an utter sham.

Nov 22, T. It was necessary to tell the story, though, so not gratuitous. Given that I read an English translation from the Japanese, I imagine the writing would have been even more impressive in its original language. I read this because of Yoko Ogawa's well-regarded reputation as a writer of literary fiction sorry but I am going to make that distinction , rather than as a writer of commercial, pulp, or erotic fiction. This book did not disappoint. It is certainly nothing to compare to E. Reading about poor young Mari and her lecherous ageing and cruel lover for sexual kicks would be about as satisfying as reading Proust for quick tips on dating.

These two people, Mari and her Translator, whose name we never learn, are both lonely and desperate and living in a kind of emotional exile from themselves and everyone else. The Translator seems to find relief from his barely-contained rage only by expressing it in acts of sexual cruelty.

For this, he needs a willing victim. Mari, whose beloved but alcoholic father died when she was eight, lives like an impoverished princess in her mother's economy castle, the Hotel Iris, a seaside accommodation that only comes to life for one season a year. Mari has been pulled out of high school by her mother, in order to help at the hotel.

She has no friends, no boyfriends, no life of any kind outside the monotony of the hotel and her domineering mother, as well as her mother's friend and part-time maid, who steals from Mari. One can understand such a girl, at seventeen, feeling desperate to be seen and touched and cared for by someone—almost anyone, really—and most especially a man, since the only person who ever seems to have loved her deeply and unselfishly was her dead father. It is not so surprising that the girl seeks to escape her emotional pain via the infliction of enormous physical pain.

In fact, she seems at times to seek the release of death but without having to accomplish the act herself. Girls like Mari are often found with slices on their arms, legs, and various hidden places on their bodies, where they cut themselves to gain the kind of release Mari seeks through brutally punishing sex acts with the Translator.

Sometimes, these girls go too far, cutting too deeply or hitting an artery, and accidentally killing themselves. This sad scenario is not dissimilar to Mari's sex with the Translator. And would release the same opiate-like beta endorphins that cutting does too. So, yes, sex is the medium, but what is the message here? I don't think it's only about the lovers' high that can result from two people engaging in an edgy, consensual, painful but safe sexual act involving whipping, bondage, cutting, etc. This is very different.

For one thing, there are no discussions about what kind of sex is going to happen and no real seeking of consent. No safe words. No out. Mari is repeatedly degraded, humiliated, injured, and nearly killed. This is not enacting anything. It's the real deal. The Translator translates her emotions for her, pulling each one out of her like a fisherman gutting a trout, and in turn, allowing her to see herself from a distance.

4 thoughts on “Hotel Iris — Yoko Ogawa”

In those moments, Mari reaches a level of ecstasy that a martyr's religious fervor might induce: she is finally free of herself and her pain, and she is unafraid of dying. Unlike cutters and heroin addicts, though, Mari needs an Other to impose his will on her. That's part of the experience she craves and, indeed, that is the slim connecting thread to other people who reach a transcendent "sub space" via submission to a Dominant, in BDSM terms.

But Mari's needs go way beyond that of a robust psycho-sexual fetish. Really, she is too young and inexperienced to even know about that type of life and what it involves. Besides living a cloistered life, there is no internet the original book was published in or even a mention of television shows she watches. Mari is a virgin when the Translator gets hold of her. Of course, she needs to be young and virginal to satisfy the dark, voracious god he feeds. And his violent acts must be repeated weekly because he, like Mari, can only be temporarily sated.

The Translator is like a starving monster gorging on raw meat out of desperate necessity but without any apparent pleasure. A significant third person in this arrangement is the Translator's nephew, a young man who cannot speak, who briefly also becomes Mari's lover, which leads to the Translator trapping Mari on the island where he lives and nearly killing her in their final meeting.

The young man represents many things, which might be left to the mind of the reader. I was never fully convinced either of his being the Translator's nephew or of the story that the two men tell Mari about the Translator's dead wife. This book is a slim volume that punches well above its weight. It's contemplative and melancholy and poetic, despite its gruesome violence i. There's nothing genuinely erotic or titillating or even sexy about the sex scenes. I don't think Okagawa was aiming for her readers to read her book in the bubble bath. Up until the end, I expected the denouement to reveal that my narrator all along had been Mari's ghost, which would have been very Japanese in a way but also not unheard of in fiction.

It's hard to say I enjoyed this book, though I did enjoy its eloquence, and I was deeply immersed in Mari's life. I cared about what happened to her. I cheered her on against her domineering mother and the wicked maid, and hoped for her to find happiness in the end. It is to Ogawa's credit that the mother and the maid, despite their unappealing and selfish personalities, are rendered subtly enough that one feels pity for them, too, in the end.

The book is light on feelings. Everything is action and reflection without the sharing of feelings. The reader takes on all the feelings. This is a rich and moving experience. Though, it must be said, the feeling I most enjoyed was my own happiness at the death of the Translator at the end. He well and truly had it coming. There are no moments of straightforward intercourse, and one suspects the Translator is incapable of it.

There are people who get hot and bothered reading Lolita too. I don't claim to speak for everyone, but I will stand by my original claim that this book is not written as commercial erotica as with E. James et al. It absolutely deserves that standing and the respect that goes with it. View all 9 comments. I mean, it is a somewhat dark and disturbing tale of a sadomasochistic affair between a 17 year old girl and a much older man!! But the writing is just so breath-taking. There is not a superfluous word in the whole book, and along with the shocking violence and cruelty there somehow manages to be such tenderness and beauty.

Not for the faint-hearted, perhaps, but definitely an arresting read. I will certainly be seeking out more of Yoko 4. View 1 comment. Jan 24, Teresa rated it liked it. I find it hard to say I like a book with such subject matter -- a first-person depiction of a young girl seeking out disturbing behavior -- but as with the other works I've read by Ogawa, I can say I admire its deceptively simple prose.

Mari, the narrator, doesn't name the other characters. They are their appellations: the translator, the nephew, the maid. Only Mari and the heroine of the Ru I find it hard to say I like a book with such subject matter -- a first-person depiction of a young girl seeking out disturbing behavior -- but as with the other works I've read by Ogawa, I can say I admire its deceptively simple prose.

Only Mari and the heroine of the Russian novel the translator is supposedly working on are named. The translator tells Mari the name of the heroine is Marie. The ending may seem abrupt, but looking back I see clues in the story the translator tells of a toddler and with what happens to a mouse. This juxtaposition in a letter from the translator to Mari also caught my eye: I can picture every detail of Marie's suffering Dec 31, Katie rated it liked it.

Would you all want to see a review of this?

YOKO OGAWA Hotel iris

If I'm rating this somewhere between 3 to 3. The writing's content and straightforward too, and I did finish this during a train journey in one sitting with another three hours left for another book. So again, if I'm rating this eerie little novel less than 3. Or it's probably just that I picked this right after Brothers Karamazov. Jul 18, Tony rated it liked it Shelves: japanese. Recommended for those too self-conscious to be seen with a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. There's even a blurb on the front cover from Hilary Mantel, serving as a literary beard.

And actually, there is much in the writing to recommend: a minimalist style that paints mood well, for instance. Yet, the story, told well, requires some suspension of reality. The images of foreshadowing are not subtle. Our narrator is a seventeen year-old girl, obsessed with a much, much older sadistic man. This is not Recommended for those too self-conscious to be seen with a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. This is not play-acting scenes.

I'm no BDSM expert, but the infliction of pain in this story seemed moved by anger, a flipping-out, not control in an exchange. But as I said, what do I know? I had to change the rating of this book. Three stars really weren't enough for this compelling, powerful, sensual and at times very macabre little story. God, where have I been while all these incredibly talented new Japanese authors were publishing their books?!

I was stuck with writers of the past they're amazing and didn't think I could've found such a beauty in an author so young! Ogawa Yoko 's writing left me simply mesmerized: simple, yet polished, almost completely free of figures of spee I had to change the rating of this book. Ogawa Yoko 's writing left me simply mesmerized: simple, yet polished, almost completely free of figures of speech and so, so far for resembling purple prose, but yet unmerciful, unrelenting, captivating, so dark, so disturbing but impossible to ignore and not to feel drawn to.

Such a talent deserves to be praised over and over again. Mari is the protagonist of the story. She's a seventeen-year-old girl who works at her family's Hotel, the Iris of the title. She's the teenager with the most defined and determined nature I've ever found in a book. She lost her father when she was still a child, witnessed the gradual decline of her grandfather's sick body; she's obsessed with violent death, with its most gruesome aspects, often finding herself imagining how fascinating the decay of the human body is.

Her only close relative still alive, her mother, is a strict, cold woman who exploits her daughter at the work place, denying her the fun and the normal, healthy life a girl so young should have. So maybe this is a study in human psychology. Mari has no men in her life, all her male relatives are dead.

As a reaction against death, against its mysterious power to suddenly manifest itself and steal people from her life, a mechanism that's hard to understand and accept, she turns into this pain-seeking, violence-addicted young woman, whose most exciting thoughts revolve around provoking and defying death, breath control and hardcore bondage, all sorts of humiliation and degrading acts, like she doesn't deserve to be alive. Her "submissive" nature makes her notice a man who is thrown out of the hotel, one night. Referred only as the "translator", because he translates works from Russian into Japanese, she feels attracted to him, his authoritative and aggressive tone, sensing his "dominant" disposition.

It doesn't matter that he's old enough to be her grandfather. They start a disturbing relationship, where she lusts after every single brutal act he inflicts on her. However, Mari is far from being a victim, here.

Hotel Iris by Yōko Ogawa

She craves it, she can only orgasms in those moments, she's simply made that way. It might be because of her past, or the lack of love from her mother, we don't know for sure. She's just incapable of feeling anything, besides dark and fucked up desires. She also has this irresistible dark humor. It might sound as an oxymoron, but I laughed a lot while reading this book, even at times when I should've probably cried or felt shocked. This is a very interesting little book which is tricky to sum up. Take 50 Shades of Grey, set it in a Japanese seaside resort, replace the bad writing with immense literary aplomb, and replace Jamie Hotel Iris.

Yoko Ogawa.