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The Magic Mountain
Thomas Mann, John E. Woods
The Hooligan's Return: A Memoir
Norman Manea, Angela Jianu
Kitchen - Banana Yoshimoto, Irina Holca I had developed a small obsession for this book, for no particular reason, except I couldn't find it neither in bookstores nor in a library. I guess I liked the title and the author's name, which sounded very playful. And the reviews on Goodreads indicated that it was a good novel.

So...One day I finally found it in a second-hand bookstore and grabbed it eagerly from the shelf. The previous owner had scribbled some malicious side notes (mainly adding sentences) but eventually got tired (or bored) and stopped at the 15th page. Thank goodness, because the notes were really distracting, as I couldn't help but read them.

My small obsession was satisfied, as I really liked this book. It's not a masterpiece, but seeing that it was Banana's (so funny!) debut novel, published when she was 23, I think it's a very well written, powerful story. Stories, to be precise, as there are two of them in the book - besides Kitchen, there is also a short story, Moonlight Shadow. I liked them both. I can't say "enjoyed", because they speak of death, sadness and loneliness. It may sound like a depressing novel, yet it is not. Somehow, Banana's way of narrating left my soul undamaged, I didn't feel sad or depressed. She made me consider my unhappy moments from the near past and see them in a new light (at least while I was reading the book). She had this power over me, although the writing style of the novel is rather simple. I can't guarantee that it will have the same effect on everybody, though. :)

Now, about the name: Banana is a pseudonym, of course. Wikipedia says that she took it during college because of her love of banana flowers, a name she recognizes as both "cute" and "purposefully androgynous". My Romanian edition has a different opinion on that - it says the pseudonym was taken as a tribute to the Japanese poet Bashō, whose name means "banana" in old Japanese.