Banana Yoshimoto Interview
By: PP Wong
“A novel that doesn’t contain any of your experiences won’t have a life.”
Banana Yoshimoto has a cult following of “Banana” lovers from all across the world. She has been long-listed for the prestigious Man Asian Literary Prize and won the Scanno Literary Prize in 1993, the Fendissime Literary Prize in 1996, the Literary Prize Maschera d' argento in 1999 and the Capri Award in 2011.
When we finally got to pin this top Banana down, we found her answers short but vast in wisdom. Read her curious insights and advice about the literary world and let every word count.
Photo by: Fumiya Sawa
B is for...book. What is your favourite childhood book?
The Sherlock Holmes series by Conan Doyle.
A is for… animal. If you could transform into one animal for one week, what would you be?
N is for… necessary. If you were banished to a desert island and could only bring two items, what would they be?
A MacBook and a solar power charger.
A is for… authentic. How would you describe yourself in three words?
Selfish, kind and lovely.
N is for… novelist. Which writer do you most admire?
A is for… appetite. What is your favourite banana themed food?
A pudding made of banana bread.
What advice would you give to a new writer starting out?
The most important thing is to know yourself.
You must try to discover who you are and know what you can and cannot do. Know your strengths and weaknesses, and only write with your own words. Even if it is terrible, the words that can only be written by you and the thoughts that can only be inspired by you will impact people’s hearts.
Do you think the best kind of writing is when you write from your own experiences?
A novel that doesn’t contain any of your experiences won’t have a life.
Using proper nouns or the name of any real place strangely doesn’t transmit the essence of the novel to the readers. They must be replaced with other things. I believe that this replacement technique, which cannot be imagined by other people, is one of the most important qualities of the writer.
Do you think authors play an important role in society?
Yes, I believe so.
People always need a story, a character’s point of view and experience of that story. The real image-like movie does not give freedom to the imagination. I think that human beings may need other people’s ideas; ideas which can be reproduced in their heads from reading a novel. I believe novels can give power to people in their own special way.
When you leave this earth, what would you most like to be remembered for?
It doesn’t matter that people don’t remember my name or my face, but I’ll be happy if people every once in a while remember the characters from my novels, and think “hey, I’m thinking like that character”, or “this is the same situation as the one that that character had. What will I do in this case?” I will be satisfied if I can be a part of their lives in such a natural way.BW