Lizard: Understaing is a wonderful thing

The novel Lizard by Banana Yoshimoto is a collection of six different stories that underlie the theme of hope. Rather than on its own, the stories together entrench us with a message of hope.

The book starts off with the first short story Newlywed. A 29 year old, newly married salary man is heading home in a train. At home, he has his wife waiting for him in his home, which she has made it her universe. He’s lost with thinking if this will continue for the rest of his life. Then, he meets a stranger…

In Lizard, a man’s love towards a female friend who he calls ‘Lizard’ expressed.

The woman has round, black eyes that gaze at you with utter detachment, like the eues of a reptile. Every bend and curve of her small body is cool to the touch, so cool that I want to scoop her up in my two hands” (Yoshimoto 19).

Helix is quite similar to Lizard of how he finds himself impossible to detach himself from his girlfriend. He expresses such feeling as an ‘infinite helix’. The first female narrative approaches in the story Dreaming of Kimchee. This story gives a strong voice to women, discussing how her affair with a married man isn’t so bad as everyone makes it to be.

Blood and Water resonates with people who left their houses to work in an outer country or state. It’s about a woman who left her town and came to work in Tokyo. Though she sometimes misses her hometown, she is unable to go back since she found herself where she belongs.

In A Strange Tale from Down by the River, the female narrator deliberately uses sex to express herself, flowing through an empty space with absolutely no sense of control. She then gives up her sexual life and devotes herself to a man she loves, which helps her discover her own truths.

Every character in every story goes through a conflict with something that segregates them from their dreams. They end up realizing that a step further in their effort is worth it because they feel that it has brought them close to realizing their dreams.


Short and simple deeper meanings

I say Lizard is not the book for you if you’re in the mood for classic. However, if you’d like to read something that wouldn’t require much metal power and feel like a quick reading, Lizard would be the perfect ticket.

Unlike most stories, Banana Yoshimoto wrote a book where there are no villains or heroes, no gut-wrenching emotions nor twisting plots. She wrote about normal, urban people with mostly unusual past lives living in the current ‘normal’ society.

The stories go through a contemplative, gentle and optimistic point-of-view of human lives. The characters in the story are mostly two-dimensional, portraying the issues people face in today’s world with its moral ambiguities and loneliness. Lizard also touches upon the beauty of the lifetime moments and its uncertainty. Yoshimoto’s writings are very easy to read since it sounds simple. However, it is not easy to understand the true meanings
Banana Yoshimoto

The genre I would put this book into would be magic realism. This book covers the realist tradition of the current world but at the same time includes the elements from fantasy, fiction, and mythology.

Yoshimoto has simple and concise writing style, which emphasize on elements such as hope, truth, and beauty. If you can value such beautiful moments in the stories and the book as a whole, Lizard it is.

Author Biography

Mahoko Yoshimoto, known as Banana Yoshimoto was born in July 24, 1964 in Tokyo Japan. She is the daughter of Takaaki Yoshimoto who is known the be an influential Japanese philosopher. Banana Yoshimoto grew up in a liberal family where she learned to be independent from a young age. She graduated at the age of 22 from Nihon University, majoring in art and literature. During her college years, she chose the name ‘Banana’ because she found it to be ‘purposefully androgynous’ and ‘cute’.

Banana Yoshimoto continues to write 30 minutes everyday on her computer and continues to write an online journal on her personal website for her fans.


Banana Yoshimoto's website