saraba-contrast-cover Kanako Nishi

Winner of the prestigious Naoki prize and the #5 bestselling novel that year, Saraba! is Kanako Nishi’s most personal novel yet.

Saraba means “farewell.” Ayumu Akutsu was born in May 1977 in Tehran, Iran. His father worked for a petroleum company, and along with his charming mother and eccentric older sister, the family lived there until the revolution in 1979, when they returned to Osaka in Japan. Ayumu started elementary school there, only to move with his family again, this time to Cairo, Egypt.

Ayumu’s experiences in Egypt will have a profound effect on his life—he cannot even fathom the immense power that his farewell to the country and to what the word saraba comes to represent for him—as over the course of the next four decades, events unfold in Japan and around the world that will alter Ayumu’s family and beyond.

One of the judges for the Naoki prize, Mariko Hayashi, said, “Nishi is a gifted writer—the sheer scale of Saraba! transcends being Japanese. When you finish reading it, an immense blue sky opens up above you—this is the novel’s greatest fascination.”

kanako-nishi-squareThe author: Kanako Nishi was born in Tehran in 1977, and grew up in Cairo and Osaka. She made her debut as a writer in 2004 with Aoi (Blue). In 2007, her novel Tsutenkaku (Tower to Heaven) won the Sakunosuke Oda Prize. In 2012 she received the first Hayao Kawai Prize for her novel Fukuwarai (Funny Face). Her masterpiece, Saraba! won the prestigious Naoki prize in 2015. She lives in Tokyo.


I entered this world with my left foot first.

This is what I’ve been told:  that, ever so furtively, I stuck my left foot outside of my mother’s body, followed hesitantly by my right foot.

Once both feet were out, it wasn’t as if the rest of me appeared right away.  I remained in that state for a while, perhaps measuring the distance to my new surroundings.  Apparently, once the doctor had a firm grasp on my belly, I seemed reassured enough to make a full appearance.  And then, my body quivering and everyone starting to worry, I let out a cry at last.

This strikes me as very much my own way of entering the world.

There was no joy about plunging myself into a completely unknown world.  What I felt, first of all, was fear.  Would I be able to adapt to this world?  Would I survive?  This fear caused my body to shut down momentarily.  And what eventually broke the standstill and pushed me out was resignation.  It seems as though my acquiescence that this world was all I had, that there was no choice but to live in it, was loosely and yet certainly connected to the fact that, the moment I took my first breath, it was too late—I was already born.


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October 2, 2016