My occasional penchant for modern Japanese ‘magic realism’ novels is something of a double-edged sword. Why do I say that? Having read virtually everything Haruki Murakami has read, I find the bar for such novels is set pretty high, so when something like Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s “Before the coffee gets cold” comes along, there is perhaps an inevitability that the book will limbo beneath the bar rather than achieve the standard set.
Thus, with “Before the coffee gets cold” I find myself – having accepted that the premise of the narrative is an interesting one – knowing Murakami would have made more of it, given it greater depth and intelligence, made it more coherent and less episodic.
Inevitably – and again to the detriment to the non-Murakami author – I also wonder how much of the story is compromised by the translation. Where there are some clumsy parts and unnecessary repetition, are these in the original text of introduced by the translator?
Don’t get me wrong, “Before the coffee gets cold” is not a bad book in any way. Indeed, it might for some be a light and relative innocent starter to the genre. But when you can’t help but possess a sense of the unfulfilled potential of the story, well, that can get in the way…