Mieko Kawakami, Sam Bett, David Boyd
Shortlisted for the International Booker Prize 2022
From the bestselling author of Breasts and Eggs and international literary sensation Mieko Kawakami comes a sharp and illuminating novel about a fourteen-year-old boy subjected to relentless bullying.
In Heaven, a fourteen-year-old boy is tormented for having a lazy eye. Instead of resisting, he chooses to suffer in silence. The only person who understands what he is going through is a female classmate, Kojima, who experiences similar treatment at the hands of her bullies. Providing each other with immeasurable consolation at a time in their lives when they need it most, the two young friends grow closer than ever. But what, ultimately, is the nature of a friendship when your shared bond is terror?
Unflinching yet tender, sharply observed, intimate and multi-layered, this simple yet profound novel stands as yet another dazzling testament to Mieko Kawakami’s uncontainable talent. There can be little doubt that it has cemented her reputation as one of the most important young authors at work today.
TIME’s 100 Must-Read Books of 2021.
‘Mieko Kawakami is a genius’ – Naoise Dolan, author of Exciting Times
‘An expertly told, deeply unsettling tale of adolescent violence’ – Vogue
Translated from the Japanese by Sam Bett and David Boyd.
Taking two outcast teens as its unhappy protagonists, it is an expertly told, deeply unsettling tale of adolescent violence that will, no doubt, only grow the author's fan base * Vogue * Kawakami never evangelizes, never wags a finger. She simply sets first-person narrations of suffering alongside stumbling dialogues, attempts to make that suffering intelligible to others . . . This is the real magic of Heaven, which shows us how to think about morality as an ongoing, dramatic activity. It can be maddening and ruinous and isolating. But it can also be shared, enlivened through writing and conversation, and momentarily redeemed through unheroic acts of solidarity, which come more naturally to the children in Heaven than to most grownups here on earth -- Merve Emre * New Yorker * To read Heaven, by the author of Breasts and Eggs, and newly translated into English from Japanese by Sam Bett and David Boyd, is to bear witness to an unrelenting horror film of one boy's youth * The Washington Post * The second novel to appear in English by the bestselling Japanese author Mieko Kawakami is tauter and even more perceptive than its predecessor . . . Heaven is less than half the length and holds double the emotional force * New Statesman * Reading Heaven is a rare, unforgettable experience. For me this is a perfect novel, and one I know I will return to before long -- Megan Nolan, author of Acts of Desperation Sam Bett and David Boyd have translated Kawakami's novel into richly polychromatic English, bringing out her pitch-perfect dialogue and the lyricism of her descriptive language: rain falls like 'a numb static rising from the inner depths of town'. Heaven is a thoughtful novel about the value of the flaws that make us who we are * Literary Review * Short but assured. . .by the end, the reader is so dizzily absorbed in its visceral details and philosophical complexity that, when the twist comes, it hits you with a strange and unexpected force * Financial Times * Impeccably translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd, the book is full of masterly set pieces of violence, scenes of senseless bullying so lucid you can almost feel the pain yourself . . . the dissonances of the novel align into perfect vision for the breathtaking ending, which is an argument in favor of meaning, of beauty, of life. It is rare for a writer as complex as Kawakami to be so unafraid of closure, to be as capable of satisfying, profound resolution. But then again, to read her work is to feel that she is not afraid of anything at all * New York Times Book Review * Heaven is told with astonishing frankness and economy. It will cut through all your defences down to every layer of fear, isolation, hope and need you've ever felt. The central pair of fourteen year old outcasts reckon with pain, belonging and the search for meaning in a way that's heartbreaking and compelling. Mieko Kawakami is a genius -- Naoise Dolan A raw, painful, and tender portrait of adolescent misery, reminiscent of both Elena Ferrante's fiction . . . I cannot, in good conscience, endorse it without a warning: This book is very likely to make you cry * NPR * Brilliant . . . This captivating, quietly devastating book is about the relationship between two school misfits. The same vulnerabilities that expose them to their tormentors allow them to see one another with a pure sort of attention -- Megan Nolan * New Statesman * Reading Heaven feels like there's a beautiful, cruel teenage boy sitting on your chest, carelessly tossing his perfect hair while you are slowly suffocated by your own helplessness. In this horror film, oblivious authority figures walk on by as you grope for breath, wondering what it even means to be alive and free * Independent * Simple and profound, Heaven is an undeniable masterpiece -- Mitsuyoshi Numano A poignant odyssey into the haunted caverns of adolescence . . . Kawakami writes with jagged, visceral beauty about those early antagonists we carry around in our heads, scars we bear into adulthood, 'caught in the undertow' of hormones and sorrow * Oprah Daily * Mieko Kawakami pulls from the all too familiar places we learn to accept as normal in our youth and gives them to us to reflect on as adults in a painful yet necessary way. Even if we could never learn the absolute truths behind humans' capacity for violence as well as empathy, we are certainly closer now with Heaven -- An Yu, author of Braised Pork Kawakami unflinchingly takes the reader through the abyss of depraved, dehumanizing behavior with keen psychological insight, brilliant sensitivity, and compassionate understanding. With this, the author's star continues to rise * Publishers Weekly * Mieko Kawakami has spun a poignant tale on the theme of bullying . . . Heaven is a tour de force * Tokyo Shimbun * Heaven covers new terrain, masterfully broadening the literary landscape * Yomiuri Shimbun * Kawakami has a unique knack for burrowing into discomfort, and she does it in a startlingly graceful way. Like her last novel-an unsparing treatise on the pressures of being a woman in male-dominated Japan-this book isn't for the fainthearted. Told from the perspective of a 14-year-old boy in present-day Japan, Kawakami's tale follows the volatile lives of two teenagers relentlessly bullied by their peers . . . An unexpected classic * Kirkus * Rises above the philosophical questions at its depths and delivers the reader to a devastating conclusion * Elle Japan * Kawakami's powerful and unassuming novel explores horrific accounts of bullying in a Japanese school . . . Her sensitive, evocative storytelling sets her apart as an incredible literary talent * BookList * Kawakami is a writer who doesn't shy away from hard truths and painful experiences, so Heaven will not be an easy read, but it's guaranteed to be a rewarding one * The Japan Times * It is difficult to write young voices well: easy to forget how smart teenagers are, or to portray them in terms of what adults might wish for them. Mieko Kawakami, however, is adept at understanding their perspective and capturing the despair and intractability of those difficult years . . . As with Kawakami's previously translated work, Breasts and Eggs, this is an adroit novel of real feeling and insight from a writer who wants her readers to think for themselves -- Ronan Hession * Irish Times * Mesmerizing . . . Kawakami is a master of the interior voice. There is something about her prose that is so immediate and pressing it blocks out the future almost as if it were a threatening force. We are forced to deal with her characters as they are living now: alone, vulnerable, and unprotected * World Literature Today * These raw and realistic portrayals of bullying are counterbalanced by textured exposition of the philosophical and religious debates concerning violence to which the weak are subjected * Paperback Paris * Moving and intelligent. Kawakami gives us characters who speak to the heart and illustrate in one form or another the dilemma facing everyone in adolescence. Hopeful yet chilling in equal measures * American Booksellers Association * Heaven takes on the issue of bullying, and why a victim might choose not to fight back. Two teenagers bond over their torment, and their passive response reveals many kinds of societal injustice * Washington Post * This sharp new novel from Mieko Kawakami [is] a sucker-punch of a story that implores you to question even your own morality * Cosmopolitan * With grace and clarity, Kawakami explores destructive nature of adolescent violence, and the power of empathetic friendships * The Millions * How can a relationship really last when its foundation is built on shared experiences of humiliation? The author moves toward an answer in this quietly devastating tale of middle school drama * TIME * If you enjoyed Mieko Kawakami's brilliant Breasts and Eggs, you're certain to be astonished by her latest novel exploring violence and bullying with fierce, feminist and damning candor * Ms. Magazine * While Kawakami refuses to give us answers, the elegance and care with which she describes her characters' lives invite the reader to ask such questions of themselves. This is not a cruel story, but rather one that understands hurt and pain for what it is: universal, unjust and material for new life * BookPage * Mieko Kawakami is the reigning queen of contemporary Japanese literature for good reason * Japan Times * Kawakami is taking the reader by the hand and guiding us through someone's small, interior life as a method of contemplating wide-ranging, universal issues such as the body, ethics, and meaning * Bad Form Review * A poignant and unsettling look at what makes a friendship and, on a macro level, what makes an unequal society. Kawakami's writing is meticulous and assured, and Heaven leaves a bruise * The Skinny * Exceptional -- David Hayden * White Review 'Books of the Year' *
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