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Hôtel Iris

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Dans une station balnéaire, une adolescente tombe amoureuse d'un homme beaucoup plus âgé qu'elle, au passé et à la réputation troubles. Yoko Ogawa s'appuie sur une écriture étonnamment détachée pour sonder l'âme dans tous ses états.

237 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1996

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About the author

Yōko Ogawa

137 books3,740 followers
Yōko Ogawa (小川 洋子) was born in Okayama, Okayama Prefecture, graduated from Waseda University, and lives in Ashiya. Since 1988, she has published more than twenty works of fiction and nonfiction. Her novel The Professor and his Beloved Equation has been made into a movie. In 2006 she co-authored „An Introduction to the World's Most Elegant Mathematics“ with Masahiko Fujiwara, a mathematician, as a dialogue on the extraordinary beauty of numbers.

A film in French, "L'Annulaire“ (The Ringfinger), directed by Diane Bertrand, starring Olga Kurylenko and Marc Barbé, was released in France in June 2005 and subsequently made the rounds of the international film festivals; the film, some of which is filmed in the Hamburg docks, is based in part on Ogawa's "Kusuriyubi no hyōhon“ (薬指の標本), translated into French as "L'Annulaire“ (by Rose-Marie Makino-Fayolle who has translated numerous works by Ogawa, as well as works by Akira Yoshimura and by Ranpo Edogawa, into French).

Kenzaburō Ōe has said, 'Yōko Ogawa is able to give expression to the most subtle workings of human psychology in prose that is gentle yet penetrating.' The subtlety in part lies in the fact that Ogawa's characters often seem not to know why they are doing what they are doing. She works by accumulation of detail, a technique that is perhaps more successful in her shorter works; the slow pace of development in the longer works requires something of a deus ex machina to end them. The reader is presented with an acute description of what the protagonists, mostly but not always female, observe and feel and their somewhat alienated self-observations, some of which is a reflection of Japanese society and especially women's roles within in it. The tone of her works varies, across the works and sometimes within the longer works, from the surreal, through the grotesque and the--sometimes grotesquely--humorous, to the psychologically ambiguous and even disturbing.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,009 reviews
Profile Image for Robin.
493 reviews2,731 followers
December 7, 2019
The Hotel Iris, a shabby seaside accommodation run by a cruel widow and her seventeen year old daughter, isn't much of a getaway. For Mari, the teenage girl practically chained behind the front desk, it's more like a prison. Remember those famous lyrics of that song, "Hotel California"? You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave....

So I suppose it's not all that surprising that Mari, who has lived a life of restraint, would gravitate to the familiar, with "the translator", a much older man who she heard screaming at a prostitute fleeing his room at the hotel one night.

In ruthless, minimalist style, Ogawa holds the reader helplessly engaged in this disturbing seduction, this grotesque, sadomasochistic adventure that most of us want to turn our heads from, but... we don't. Ogawa makes sure we don't. We are mesmerized, disgusted, intrigued. We would be outraged on behalf of the young lady, but the truth is, Mari is very much along for the ride, so we just ride along with her as she is humiliated and bound and finds secret, painful pleasures that seem almost beyond comprehension.

A Japanese gothic tale, there's a kleptomaniac, a tongueless mute, and the spectre of a strangled woman who walk the streets of this seaside town. Both ugliness and love are found in these pages, and all of it savage. Mercifully, this is a short novel, in knife-point focus. You won't miss a thing, that knife point pressed threateningly into your throat. And you'll like it too, damn it.
Profile Image for Sawsan.
1,000 reviews
July 14, 2022
The topic of this novel is disturbing and uncomfortable
Yoko Ogawa displays the harsh pleasures and sadistic intimacy
at first it was just a voice that attracted Mari's attention at the hotel Iris where she is working, then gradually found herself in a some sort of an affection relationship between her- the 17 year old girl - and a middle aged man
Mari's character is well written.. her life is limited by solitude, dominant mother and work
she made a strange contradictory connection between pleasure and humiliation
and the provocative thing was that she felt it's ok and didn't make any effort to get out of this trap till the end
the good thing is the delicate and smooth style of writing
Profile Image for Jr Bacdayan.
211 reviews1,741 followers
January 5, 2017
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.

There’s something very straightforward about Yoko Ogawa’s prose that disarms the reader into surrender. 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.

“The desires of the human heart know no reason or rules.”

Make no mistake, this book paints a very clear picture of BDSM in all its inglorious, bare form. 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. 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.
Profile Image for Liong.
147 reviews114 followers
August 27, 2022
Another wonderful writing by Yoko Ogawa is about a young girl Mari works in Hotel Iris.

She met an old translator and the story began.

The story is about human behavior and the complexity of human character between right and wrong.

The story tells the confusion of the complicated relationships and moral obligations of humans.

I try not to spoil the story and you can judge it yourself. I love it.
Profile Image for T.D. Whittle.
Author 3 books190 followers
June 20, 2018
*** Plot spoilers ahead! ***

Hotel Iris is beautifully written but not easy reading due to the grim sexual violence. 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.

Despite what the book blurb says, and what other reviewers here on GR have said, I am going to go out on a limb here and say that this book is NOT about BDSM. 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.L. James. 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. 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 1996) 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.e. the sex acts enacted upon Mari by the Translator). 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. * Quite frankly, the sex is terrifying, as the reader isn't sure from one moment to the next whether the young girl will survive. 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.

* Having said that, I am aware that there are some folks out there who might get aroused by the sexual violence in this book. (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.L. James et al.) but as literature. It absolutely deserves that standing and the respect that goes with it.
Profile Image for Henk.
875 reviews
March 13, 2023
A story about the longing for humiliation and (lack of) agency. In a decrepit sea-side resort a young woman becomes entangled with a translator of Russian texts
Only when I was brutalized, reduced to a sack of flesh, could I know pure pleasure

Weird and disturbing, yet Yōko Ogawa keeps you reading and guessing on who is actually in charge of events in the narrative of Hotel Iris.
Mari, a lonely girl of 17, working in the titular hotel with her mother, finds a new father figure in a Russian translator. He is around 60 years old, caused a fuss by bringing a prostitute to the hotel and lives on an island close to the resort town.

There are kleptomaniacs, Mari feels shackled down in the slightly decrepit Hotel Iris (which stands besides a fish processing plant), and the desires of the flesh which for her are seemingly a way to confirm her existence. This turns rather extreme in the house of the translator (Everyone who comes to your house has secrets).

Mari in general seems very keen to escape the claustrophobic confines of living with her mother in the hotel. She seems to have a form of self hatred, or at the least self disregard, and thinks things like: It felt like a lie even though I told the truth.

When a mute nephew of the translator enters the story, literally without a tongue, the story turns even more gothic. To further reinforce this, there are dead fish, trapped mouses, (extreme) humiliation and (lack of) agency.
For a short read this is depressingly effective in conveying an atmosphere, and I was captivated, if not a little glad to be able to leave the world of Hotel Iris.
Profile Image for Dhanaraj Rajan.
450 reviews311 followers
August 22, 2016
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 humiliations. The girl takes everything of the cruelty with longing/craving. 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? 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.
Profile Image for Praj.
314 reviews811 followers
May 28, 2011
From the age of 12, I have been obsessed with assorted novels revealing love affairs flanked by adolescent girls and older men. Perhaps, due to an discontented teenage fantasy or the fact that reading Marguerite Duras’s 'The Lover' during my 7th grade History class while picturing a virginal 15yr old fucking a 27-yr old Chinese tycoon, made me scribble 'Orgasm' in my notebook. I do not know the precise cause of my addiction, but the sinister juvenile seduction still tantalizes my imagination.

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

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.
Profile Image for George Ilsley.
Author 12 books237 followers
January 2, 2023
Some readers deduct stars if a book is disturbing, or if it dwells on unpleasant or unlikable characters. By those measures, this book should be rated at about minus 7. It is very disturbing, and raises all sorts of questions.

I wondered how the girl, who seemed very closely monitored, was able to get away to meet the translator without her mother catching on (or without nosy gossips in the town spilling the beans).

Well, perhaps everything is a metaphor— even the boy drowning and the tide of dead fish. The tongue-less nephew, the dead wife, the translator, it goes on and on, an ocean of metaphor.

I don't know what to make of it, but there you have it. The Hotel Iris, named after a female rainbow messenger to the gods.
Profile Image for Viv JM.
694 reviews153 followers
July 11, 2017
4.5 stars

I feel a little weird rating this book so highly. 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 Ogawa’s work.
Profile Image for Sara.
1,124 reviews363 followers
May 6, 2021
I'm not entirely sure what I just read...

Part Lolita, part the film Secretary, this short little story covers a very dark topic. One of loneliness and self hatred, a downtrodden young woman trying to find herself why fighting her own identity. And then we have an elderly man with some...questionable tendancies. I'm not sure of the obsession and connection between the two. I don't understand it, but then I'm also not sure if I'm even suppose to understand it.

There's a certain tone that permeates the whole story. Set by the sea, we go from a summer attraction with fun and excitement, much like the start of their relationship, to one that's stormy and tumultuous. It's moody and dramatic and tense. Every sentence is filled with emotion and while I really appreciated it...I'm just left feeling confused. And a little weirded out.
Profile Image for Georgia  Zarkadaki .
407 reviews102 followers
August 15, 2017
Το ξενοδοχείο Ίρις το αγόρασα μετά από πολύμηνη σκέψη. Δεν ξέρω γιατί είχα δεύτερες (και τρίτες) σκέψεις για την αγορά του μιας και τελικά μου άρεσε πολύ! Στην καρδιά της ιστορίας κρύβεται μια σαδομαζοχιστική σχέση μεταξύ ενός 67χρόνου άντρα και μιας 17χρόνης κοπέλας αλλά πέρα από την βιτσιόζικη αυτή πλευρά της σχέσης τους η συγγραφέας σου δείχνει και την πιο ευαίσθητη και ρομαντική πλευρά της.

Θεωρώ ότι σε πολλούς αρέσει να διαβάζουν που και που για σχέσεις καταδικασμένες ή λίγο εκτός των ορίων, των κοινωνικών αλλά και ψυχικών, και θεωρώ πως η διαφορά ηλικίας του «ζευγαριού» θα είχε λιγότερη σημασία αν η συγγραφέας δεν μας έδινε πολύ περιγραφικά και με αρνητική χροιά το κάθε τι επάνω στον άντρα που πρόδιδε την ηλικία του. Νομίζω πως ήθελε να μας τονίσει την μεγάλη του ηλικία για να μας σοκάρει και να κάνει την μικρή της οποίας τις σκέψεις ακολουθούμε ακόμα πιο… «ανώμαλη».

Η γραφή είναι πολύ καλή και όσοι διαβάζουν Ιαπωνική λογοτεχνία ξέρουν πως το συναίσθημα κρύβεται πάντα κάτω από στρώματα φαινομενικής αναισθησίας. Μπορεί οι χαρακτήρες να μας φαίνονται πάντα συναισθηματικά αποκομμένοι και αδιάφοροι εμπρός σε γεγονότα αλλά εγώ έβρισκα πάντα πως αν ξέρεις που να κοιτάξεις βρίσκεις φοβερά δυνατά συναισθήματα. Ξεχνούμε συχνά πως οι Ιάπωνες είναι τόσο διαφορετικοί από εμάς!

Ο χαρακτήρας που με ενδιάφερε περισσότερο ήταν αυτός της κοπέλας μιας και ήταν η δική της φωνή που μας συνόδευε. Η συγγραφέας μας έδειξε πολύ φανερά γιατί της άρεσε να της φέρεται έτσι ο άντρας που εκείνη αποκαλεί «μεταφραστής» και δυστυχώς περιορίστηκε σε πολύ εύκολες λύσεις πάραυτα όμως ήταν πολύ ενδιαφέρουσα χαρακτήρας.

Ένα από τα ωραία χαρακτηριστικά του βιβλίου ήταν και η τοποθεσία στην οποία διαδραματιζόταν η ιστορία, μια παραθαλάσσια Ιαπωνική πόλη. Οι περιγραφές της περιοχής σε έκανε να νομίζεις πως βρίσκεσαι σε κάποια πόλη της Ελλάδος!

Θα το προτείνω σε όσους έχουν πιο ανοιχτό μυαλό μιας και μας δίδονται δυνατές σκηνές μέσα στο βιβλίο που κάποιος που δεν έχει συνηθίσει σε αυτές ίσως σοκαριστεί. Το απόλαυσα στις διακοπές μου, δεν με κούρασε καθόλου και σίγουρα θα το θυμάμαι για καιρό.


Profile Image for JimZ.
1,062 reviews495 followers
December 22, 2019
What the hell? This book came from the same author who wrote such a wonderful book, The Housekeeper and the Professor, and the brilliant book Revenge? I found this novel to be disturbing and “disturbing” in in my eyes does not automatically merit a bad review of a book... but I did not get the point of this book...to be disturbing just to be disturbing? It dragged on and on for being a rather short book…the mother was not nice to the protagonist, Mari, and I guess Mari had a self-esteem issue….but what in her mind/wants/desires would make her literally want to be captive to an old creep…. I am anxious to read other reviews. I don’t get it…how this book could be so bad in my eyes and the other two to be stellar (The Housekeeper and the Professor and Revenge).?
Profile Image for Teresa.
Author 8 books817 followers
January 24, 2014
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. (I see I used that exact phrase in my reviews of her Revenge and The Diving Pool: Three Novellas as well.)

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 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 ... And then, in my mind, you, Mari, have taken her place.

Would you like to have lunch at my home next Tuesday? I will cook for you. ...
Profile Image for Katie.
273 reviews3,840 followers
December 31, 2016
Well....when people referred to this as "Japanese 50 Shades of Grey"....they were right in some ways. Would you all want to see a review of this?
Profile Image for Repellent Boy.
503 reviews523 followers
August 15, 2018
Creo que no termino yo de adaptarme a esta autora. He leído cuatro libros de ella y cada uno se ha llevado un número diferente de estrellas. Sus historias son muy regulares y o me gustan por lo sorprendente, o me aburren por la falta de trama, o me encantan por la ternura que desprende o, como esta última, me horroriza por como cuenta lo que cuenta.

Lo primero que diré es que no os dejéis engañar por la sinopsis. No es una historia de amor con un tipo de relación sexual diferente. Es una relación de dominio y maltrato. La protagonista, deprimida y acomplejada, encuentra en el protagonista, que tiene casi 50 años más, un imagen paterna. Sintiéndose sola por una madre opresiva y poco afectiva y la ausencia desde niña de su padre, cae en lo que cree un refugio. No lo es.

Y si la idea de la autora fuera la de presentarnos una trama desagradable, a modo de crítica o con ganas de impactar. Me parecería bien. Pero no termino de estar seguro de si lo ve así, o realmente lo plasma como si fuera una historia de amor trágica. Si quería hacer una crítica, me ha faltado que lo mostrara más.

Aun así, si tengo que decir algo bueno, es que esta autora es ideal para iniciarse en la literatura japonesa. Quizás una de las que más. Tiene una manera de narrar muy sencilla, muy directa y sin excesivas descripciones. Y eso, sobre todo para quien se inicia, es de valorar. Le dejaré las dos estrellas, por su narración adictiva.

En definitiva, no me ha gustado. Ya van una que me gustó, una que me dejó indiferente, otra que me maravilló y esta que me disgustó. A saber que me deparará el siguiente xD.
Profile Image for Evi *.
343 reviews221 followers
June 2, 2018
C’è sempre timore a mettere una valutazione elevata ad un libro di genere erotico, i libri di genere erotico a volte si leggono per poi massacrarli in nome di un perbenismo atto a mostrare che in realtà è un puro divertissement per chi legge che invece se ne tiene a debitissima distanza.
In realtà peccato perché Hotel Iris non merita, gli assegnerei una valutazione tra le due e le tre stelle, ma mi astengo e non so decidere.

Storia dell’iniziazione sessuale di una ragazzina da parte di un uomo molto più anziano di lei.

Per Mari che vive una esistenza repressa, soffocata da una madre autoritaria ed egoista che a 17 anni l’ha obbligata a lasciare gli studi per dedicarsi alla gestione di un misero albergo sulla costa, quest'uomo rappresenta nella sua vita il primo contatto con l'universo dei sentimenti ma anche uno spiraglio di libertà e una via di fuga.

Tese una mano verso di me. Con la punta delle dita mi sfiorò una guancia. Fu una sorpresa da togliermi il respiro. Ma era stato un gesto spontaneo di gratitudine, non m'era dispiaciuto. Solo, il cuore si era messo a battere così forte da farmi male

In nome di un desiderio di tenerezza che grida di smettere di implodere ma finalmente esplodere accetta le perversioni imposte dall'uomo si fa legare con ardite tecniche di b d s m, lacci che la stringono ovunque sospesa nel vuoto, corpo imperlato di sudore, si presta a camminare per casa a carponi a raccogliere con la bocca oggetti sparsi sul pavimento, come un quadrupede, ma priva di grazia ed equilibrio e altre cose del genere.

Mari prova piacere? Prova piacere nel suo essere oltraggiata o Mari si disprezza?

Così riesco a sentirmi miserabile fino in fondo. Quando mi usano brutalmente, quando divento un semplice pezzo di carne, allora finalmente dalle profondità della mia anima si fa strada una sensazione di piacere puro

Lo so che non ha senso leggere un libro erotico e fare del moralismo e inoltre ritengo che le strade della felicità anche sessuale siano imperscrutabili e insindacabili, non però quelle di una ragazzina di 17 anni la cui formazione sentimentale e sessuale non può, non deve, non dovrebbe mai cominciare con una deformazione disfunzionale così grave, credo irrimediabile per la sua salute mentale, scelte di sessualità estreme possono essere frutto di un’età più matura mai di un’età che sta per sbocciare.

In ogni caso non è questo il punto, Hotel Iris è solo un romanzo e la letteratura ha il diritto / dovere di scrivere di tutto e su tutto, e non è assolutamente un libro da cestinare in toto, ci sono alcuni passaggi che meritano uno fra gli altri in cui l’autrice descrive l’attesa che è condivisibilissimo:

Il vero senso dell'attesa, però, l'ho conosciuto solo quando ti ho incontrato. Mentre aspetto che venga l'ora del nostro appuntamento davanti all'orologio floreale, provo una felicità indicibile. Sono già felice prima ancora che tu compaia.
Spio tutti quelli che arrivano dal lungomare, e quando appare una ragazzina che ha qualcosa di te mi balza il cuore in gola, poi subito mi accorgo che è un'altra e distolgo lo sguardo. È un'operazione che ripeto con pazienza senza mai arrendermi. Sono disposto a sbagliare anche mille, duemila volte, prima di trovarti. Al punto che per me non c'è più differenza tra l'impazienza di vederti subito e il piacere di prolungare quell'attesa all'infinito

E devo anche dire che che Yoko Ogawa ha un posto di in certo rilievo nel panorama giapponese contemporaneo, forse non era il titolo giusto.
Profile Image for Lyubov.
370 reviews197 followers
February 8, 2021
Това не беше добро книжно преживяване. Започна стремително, интересно, атмосферно, както всичко, което досега съм чела на Огава, но после продължи да снижава нивото с всяка изминала страница.

Стилът ѝ и начинът на боравене с думите са изящни и обиграни, но самата история ми е честно казано безсмислена. Дори не виждаме гледната точка на жертвата в едни садо-мазо отношения, няма я и тази на насилника. Просто се случват две-три неща и книгата свършва.

Ще продължа да чета Огава, но ще внимавам повече при масово лоши отзиви, каквито бяха тези за хотел "Ирис". Защо подобна книга е издадена на български език, а шедьовъра ѝ The Memory Police, не е, така и не проумявам.
Profile Image for rachel.
773 reviews150 followers
December 27, 2015
I'm going to go ahead and give this one a big ol' NOPE. I was on board, if bored, until the point when the 67 year old male love (?) interest starts sensually oiling up his mute & no-tongued nephew's body on the beach in front of his 17 year old female lover Mari, making her jealous -- like, really: we're approaching the level of demented for demented's sake by this point.

The old man lover is kind of a terrible person in many ways. Mari is turned on by him because she wants to be submissive and to her it seems there are no limits to the ways in which he can abuse her. When he watches a trapped mouse with its tail stuck in the door of a cage suffer trying to pull free and then drowns it, I was done with him and with this book.

I am no stranger to the concept of loving one's dysfunction. I understand how the pieces of the characters fit together and also, Metaphors!, and how traumatized or beaten down people transfer their feelings into sexual behavior. Hotel Iris was still the reading equivalent, to me, of watching an awful piece of performance art. There is the sense of not being able to roll my eyes back far enough.
Profile Image for Tony.
919 reviews1,556 followers
July 19, 2014
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 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?

Profile Image for Alma.
657 reviews
January 31, 2021
"- Adeus - disse eu. Tive a impressão de ter trocado com ele muito mais do que uma despedida."

"Na minha idade, tudo é mais ou menos previsível. Preparamo-nos para todas as eventualidades para não sofrer demais ou perder a cabeça inutilmente. Talvez não entendas, mas é uma coisa que se torna um hábito quando chegamos a uma idade em que nos podem dizer em qualquer altura que vamos morrer amanhã.
Mas no domingo foi diferente. A engrenagem do tempo desarranjou-se um bocadinho e levou-me para um lugar de que eu nem tinha ideia."
Profile Image for Supreeth.
122 reviews276 followers
April 22, 2019
If I'm rating this somewhere between 3 to 3.5, it's not because I'm grossed out by the twisted content in the book (I do love Lolita) . 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 3.5, it's probably because the book did not work for me as whole. Or it's probably just that I picked this right after Brothers Karamazov.
Profile Image for Sara Bow.
235 reviews1,032 followers
February 15, 2021
Also das war ja mal ein Level an perversität, dass echt too much war.. mir wurde teilweise echt schlecht beim lesen. Ich hoffe nie wieder lesen zu müssen, wie ein Mensch dem anderen mit dem Mund Socken anzieht oder darüber nachdenkt ihm den Schweiss aus den Achseln lecken zu wollen BAH
Profile Image for lavenderews.
587 reviews751 followers
September 9, 2023
Mam problem z oceną tej książki, bo była to intrygująca i szokująca lektura, a jednocześnie nie będzie to moja ulubiona książka Ogawy.
Profile Image for Viktoria.
Author 2 books81 followers
January 6, 2021
I have a violent relationship with this book, which is only fitting.
Огава си е Огава, ще се чете още от нея.
Profile Image for Marcus Hobson.
593 reviews92 followers
March 26, 2020
I was drawn to this book having read The Memory Police, which dates from two years earlier, keen to read something else by the author. This has many similar qualities.

This is a deeply unsettling book, about a girl who is befriended by a much older man, who goes to humiliate and abuse her. The girl appears to want him to do this and is a willing participant in the activities. At times the book is arousing and erotic, and because your own body betrays you with those feelings, you are somehow dragged into a complicity with the events being described. The girl, Mari, is only seventeen. It is a little like a Japanese Lolita. In fact there is one line which reminded me of the start of Lolita. The man asks:
“And how old are you?”
“Seventeen…,” he repeated, savouring each syllable.
The first paragraph of Lolita reads:
“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.”

Mari works for her domineering mother in a hotel. She is little more than a slave, running the front desk, cleaning rooms, serving food, always at the command of her mother who insists on brushing her hair and oiling it into a tight bun. Mari is our narrator throughout.
One night there is an incident in the hotel when an argument breaks out between a prostitute and an older man. They are thrown out, but Mari is very drawn to his voice. When she sees him again, in town, she follows him and the two begin a hesitant friendship. The man is very shy and introverted. He lives on an island and works as a Russian translator.

I really enjoyed the poetic way that Ogawa describes Mari at the Hotel reception:
“My senses seem sharpest when the guests are all checked in, settled in their rooms getting ready for bed. From my stool behind the desk, I can hear and smell and feel everything happening in the hotel. I can’t say I’ve had much experience or even any real desires of my own, but just by shutting myself up behind the desk, I can imagine every scene being played out by the people spending the night at the Iris. Then I erase them one by one and find a quiet place to lie down and sleep.”

Mari eventually goes alone to visit the man on the island. He strips her, beats her and humiliates her. There are other visits, in one he makes her use only her mouth to pull on his socks for him. He is cruel and sadistic, being roused to great anger, but before and after is loving and kind. “He had undressed me with great skill, his movements no less elegant for all their violence. Indeed – the more he shamed me, the more refined he became – like a perfumer plucking the petals from a rose, a jeweler prying open an oyster for its pearl.”

In the last third of the book the translator’s nephew comes to stay with him. The young man is attractive but unable to speak. He has no tongue. Instead he has a box around his neck with note paper to write on (rather like the film ‘The Piano’). Mari is obviously jealous that she does not have the translator all to herself. When she encounters the young man on his own one day, she questions him about his uncle and what happened to his wife. Mari eventually entices the nephew back to the hotel and they make love in one of the empty guest rooms. The translator discovers the betrayal and so we move towards the terrible finale. Mari returns to him on the island and is trapped there by a violent storm.

Having discovered the little notes his nephew has written, the translator forces Mari into a small pantry, where he whips her and then takes sharp scissors to all her hair. It is violent, but also written with a great deal of poetry. As the man is striking Mari, she is captivated by the arching flight of the whip, striking her in a different place each time. “More than the pain, it was the sound that captivated me. It was high and pure, like a stringed instrument. The whip played the notes on my body…” After all this, the next day they return together to town and the terrible denouement plays out.

Ogawa’s trademark style is there, the sparse descriptions, but this novel is far more unsettling and continues to haunt the reader.
Profile Image for hara.
84 reviews1 follower
July 9, 2020
We were both sick, me and this book.
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