Published 1997 (English translation)
Silk by Alessandro Baricco is a wisp of a book. At 91 pages, the story is quickly told but will sit with you for a longer time than it took you to read it.
Herve (imagine an accent on the e) is a silk merchant in France in 1861, meaning he buys silkworms and spins the silk. At some point, many of the silkworms in western Europe are sick, causing them to die prematurely. Herve (continue to imagine the accent on the e), has to go further and further east to find healthy silkworms, until he eventually finds himself going to Japan.
On his first trip to Japan, Herve sees a young woman in the court of the man from whom he is to buy a batch of silkworms. What Herve notices about this woman is that she’s not only beautiful, but she’s not Asian. She manages to pass him a note, but as it’s written in Japanese, he can’t find out what it says until he gets back to France. This woman becomes his obsession.
I can’t tell you more without giving away the whole story, but I really enjoyed this novella. The story’s fairly simple, but deep and complex with characters that really stand out…like the guy who plays pool against himself, but so there’s two different “sides” he only uses one hand when shooting (i.e. he uses his left hand for one “side” and his right hand for the other “side”). While I didn’t love this book, the ending took me a little by surprise and really left me with some things to think about.
Rating: 88 out of 100
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