OUT by Natsuo Kirino
translated by Stephen Snyder
What Out does successfully is depict the utter exhaustion and desperation of the working class (focusing on a group of women working in a boxed-lunch factory in the outskirts of Tokyo). This book is as bleak and gritty as it gets, but I liked that; I liked that Natsuo Kirino had no interest in shying away from the horrific realities that drove these characters to make the decisions that they did. It’s also hard to come away from this book without admiring Masako Katori, its central character; she’s a brilliant creation and a fantastic focal point.
The entire time I was reading I was planning on giving this 4 stars – 1 star deducted for Snyder’s egregiously clunky translation. Just one example among many passages that caused me to roll my eyes into the back of my head:
“Because you’re a smart-ass. I’m going to teach you about the big, bad world.”
“Thanks, but no thanks,” she said.
‘Because you’re a smart-ass,’ he’d said. She couldn’t let him get away with that.
So reading this was not entirely smooth sailing, but for the most part I found it admirable and compelling enough to compensate for the fact that it is not ostensibly a page-turner.
But then we got to the end, which… oh boy. It’s hard to talk about without spoiling, but, in essence – this book starts to lead toward an inexorable conclusion, and it does arrive there, so that isn’t the issue. The issue is how it unfolds, which… I personally found more offensive than I can even adequately describe, lol. Ok, fine, spoiler: it involves a rape fetish that we got to experience through two (2) different perspectives in excruciating detail. To say this served no purpose, was tonally incongruous, and bastardized Masako’s character – would all be an understatement.
I’m glad I finally read this as it’s been sitting on my shelf for years, but it also felt like a shame that I decided to pick it up for Women in Translation Month (I’m reviewing it rather belatedly) when it ended on a note that I found to be so fundamentally antifeminist it kind of cancelled out the brilliant character work that had come before.