The Diving Pool Three Novellas

Yoko Ogawa; Translated by Stephen Snyder




Trade Paperback

176 Pages



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Longlisted for The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

From Akutagawa Award-winning author Yoko Ogawa comes a haunting trio of novellas about love, fertility, obsession, and how even the most innocent gestures may contain a hairline crack of cruel intent. A lonely teenage girl falls in love with her foster brother as she watches him leap from a high diving board into a pool—a peculiar infatuation that sends unexpected ripples through her life. A young woman records the daily moods of her pregnant sister in a diary, taking meticulous note of a pregnancy that may or may not be a hallucination—but whose hallucination is it, hers or her sister's? A woman nostalgically visits her old college dormitory on the outskirts of Tokyo, a boarding house run by a mysterious triple amputee with one leg. Hauntingly spare, beautiful, and twisted, The Diving Pool is a disquieting and at times darkly humorous collection of novellas about normal people who suddenly discover their own dark possibilities.


Praise for The Diving Pool

“Still waters run dark in these bright yet eerie novellas, whose crisp, almost guileless prose hides unexpected menace . . . Stephen Snyder’s elegant translations from the Japanese whet the appetite for more.”—The New York Times Book Review
“[The Diving Pool makes] one wish to read a full-length novel by Ogawa. Her fiction could be as fascinating as that of Haruki Murakami—a very stripped-down, lightly eerie version of Murakami.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“These three quiet novellas, composing the first of Yoko Ogawa’s books to be translated into English, share an eerie quality of nightmare, the precarious sense that beauty and distress are equally possible at any moment. Ogawa’s fiction reflects like a funhouse mirror, skewing conventional responses, juxtaposing images weirdly. Depending on the viewer, it can induce wonder or a vague nausea. . . . Like her better known compatriot Haruki Murakami, Ogawa writes stories that float free of any specific culture, anchoring themselves instead in the landscape of the mind. Her hallucinatory, oddly barbed stories snag the imagination, and linger.”—The Washington Post Book World
“Ogawa writes in a lean, muscular way that goes deep, exploring how malevolence co-exists with everyday impulse . . . She’s a disturbing writer; she creates a memorable unease.”—Los Angeles Times

“Yoko Ogawa opens her spooky collection of novellas, The Diving Pool, with a girl sitting poolside lusting after her foster brother, his body muscled and graceful as he stands on the high dive. In fact, bodies—their ability to attract or disgust—obsess the entire cast of lonely female characters with the intensity of a rarefied thriller. Thanks to Ogawa's distilled language, translated here by Stephen Snyder, the exploration of these eerie fascinations is more than another tour through postmodern alienation. It's more like a spelunking of internal landscapes.”—Karen Schechner, The Plain-Dealer (Cleveland)

“There’s a little black thorn in the heart of all three novellas comprising The Diving Pool . . . Thanks to Stephen Snyder’s smooth translation, [Ogawa] now joins Murakami and Oe in the Western canon. Like Murakami, Ogawa has a talent for creating fiction that could double as dream journal—only, Ogawa’s dreams bring you up from the diving pool in a cold sweat.”—Paste magazine
“Yoko Ogawa has long been recognized as one of Japan’s best writers of the postwar generation. Yet this prolific author has never received a major English translation of her work, despite an oeuvre that includes more than twenty volumes of fiction and nonfiction. Stephen Snyder has finally undertaken this task, superbly rendering Ogawa’s spare yet intimate style for stories in the New Yorker, A Public Space, and Zoetrope. The Diving Pool, also translated by Snyder, is the American debut of three of her award-winning novellas. . . . The strength of Ogawa’s writing lies in its visceral content: Emotions that might cause recoil instead draw one in by their very familiarity, and she can make cruelty seem desirable, even pleasurable.” —Bookforum
“In each of these exquisitely disturbing novellas, Ogawa steadily builds the tension to an unexpected crescendo that resolves into an uncertain reprieve. With quietly lovely moments juxtaposed against deep disquiet, Ogawa explores the dark side of motherhood, love, and dependence.”—Elle
“With her U.S. debut, The Diving Pool, award-winning Japanese author Yoko Ogawa delivers three novellas that specialize in slow-cooker creepiness . . . Ogawa’s morose and laconic style resonates—apparently straightforward, her affectless prose puts you in the care of a woman who’s going mad but doesn’t quite realize it.”—Time Out New York

"The first American publication by one of Japan's most renowned literary writers. Odd, dark plots told with a simplistic distance that, in turn, makes them all the more harrowing and touching."—Adam Braver, Providence Journal-Bulletin

“Ogawa’s collection of three novellas illustrates the power of defamiliarization beautifully. Each story is minimal in plot and character, straight-faced in manner, yet always uncanny . . . Devotees of Murakami and Natsuo Kirino will find this mélange of supermarket aisle-realism, black humor, repression and sadism vaguely, but not unpleasantly, familiar.” —The Tennessean
"Women—twisted, obsessive and inquisitive women—are the narrators of three novellas by Yoko Ogawa who explore and indulge in their dark sides without apology. Sparse and direct prose creates delicious suspense throughout each story, with Yoko Ogawa tapping so swiftly and unexpectedly into the women's psyches that the reader is often caught off-guard. Her characters' agitated thoughts don't always cross the line but maybe flirt with it, which make the stories even more tempting: Will she? Won't she? . . . She succeeds at making the reader squirm in these three novellas. You feel like you are standing so close to these characters that their disturbing musings might rub off on you."—Danica Coto, Associated Press
"Three beautifully drawn and genuinely eerie stories. Each one builds an image that you can't quite shake out of your mind."—Aimee Bender, author of The Girl in the Flammable Skirt
"What a strange and compelling little volume this is. Yoko Ogawa's fiction is like a subtle, psychoactive drug. Long after you read it, The Diving Pool will remain with you, shifting your vision, eroding your composure, raising questions about even the most seemingly conventional people you encounter. Her gift is to both reveal and preserve the mystery of human nature."—Kathryn Harrison, bestselling author of The Kiss
"Ogawa is original, elegant, very disturbing. I admire any writer who dares to work on this uneasy territory—we're on the edge of the unspeakable. The stories seem to penetrate right to the heart of the world and find it a cold and eerie place. There are no narrative tricks, but the stories generate a surprising amount of tension. You feel as if you’ve touched an icy hand."—Hilary Mantel, author of Beyond Black

“A masterfully twisted triptych of dark novellas marks the American debut of a critically acclaimed Japanese fiction writer . . . A haunting collection, and a perfect example of the power of short fiction.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"The literary figure of the neurasthenic woman, about whose predicament Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote the psychological horror story 'The Yellow Wallpaper', returns in Ogawa's novellas. Unlike her American forebear, she isn’t closely watched, making for some deeply unsettling goings-on . . . At times each is as spine-tingling as a Stephen King creep show."—Ray Olson, Booklist
“In this first book-length translation into English, Japanese author Ogawa’s three polished tales demonstrate her knack for a crafty, suspenseful hook . . . Ogawa’s tales possess a gnawing, erotic edge.”—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

It’s always warm here: I feel as though I’ve been swallowed by a huge animal. After a few minutes, my hair, my eyelashes, even the blouse of my school uniform are damp from the heat and humidity, and I’m bathed in a moist film that smells vaguely of chlorine.
Far below my feet, gentle ripples disrupt the pale blue surface of the water. A constant stream of tiny bubbles rises from the diving well; I can’t see the bottom. The ceiling is made of glass and is very high. I sit here, halfway up the bleachers, as if suspended in midair.
Jun is walking out
Read the full excerpt


  • Yoko Ogawa; Translated by Stephen Snyder

  • Yoko Ogawa's fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, A Public Space, and Zoetrope. Since 1988 she has published more than twenty works of fiction and nonfiction, and has won every major Japanese literary award.
  • Yoko Ogawa
    Yoko Ogawa




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