Nails and Eyes
Author: Kaori Fujino
Specifications: ISBN  978-4103345114
125 pages
13.2 x 19.4 cm / 5.3 x 7.8 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Shinchosha Publishing Co., Ltd.
Tokyo, 2013
www.shinchosha.co.jp/
Awards: Akutagawa Prize, 2013
Buy now: amazon.co.jp

Synopsis

This volume contains the mid-length title story along with two short stories. The title story is in effect told in the second person, as if the three-year-old female narrator Hina were directly addressing her stepmother Mai throughout. Hina speaks with an eerie omniscience about Mai's illicit relationship with Hina's father before Hina was born; about Mai's life before she even met Hina's father; and about ongoing events in Mai's relationships with Hina, Hina's father, and others?seeing into Mai's inner thoughts and feelings all along the way.

The twenty-something Mai moves in with Hina's thirty-something father after Hina's mother Kana dies in an accident on the balcony of her apartment; they subsequently marry. Kana had raised Hina well, and the child is generally well behaved and obedient to her stepmother. But even after the family moves from the building where Kana died into a new apartment, Hina refuses to go out onto the balcony or into the living room adjacent to it, and she has taken to biting her fingernails. Mai manages to reduce Hina's nail-biting by giving her sweets, but she grows bored with her new child-rearing responsibilities and commences an affair with a secondhand book dealer who comes to take some books off their hands, carrying on the dalliance while Hina is away at kindergarten. She soon grows bored with the affair as well, and having discovered a blog that Kana wrote before her death, she awakens to the joys of homemaking, copying Kana in every way she can, from household furnishings to her choice of kitchen utensils and dishes, to the daily meals she prepares. She stops giving any attention to her husband or to Hina, and Hina quietly begins looking for a chance to strike back. It is a face-off between "you," who, due to extreme nearsightedness, is helpless without contact lenses, and "me," who possesses eerily preternatural powers of sight. As instruments of touch and sight, the nails and eyes of the title play both an acutely real and symbolic role as author Kaori Fujino displays her skill at capturing horror-like elements of the extraordinary within the ordinary.