Amazing Sushi

Jessica Olin

  • Crawling at Night by Nani Power
    Heinemann, 234 pp, £9.99, July 2001, ISBN 0 434 00856 7

In Nani Power’s novel Crawling at Night, Katsuyuki Ito has only been in New York, his new home, for a few months. On the surface, his life in the United States is exactly the same as it was in Japan; as a shokunin, or sushi chef, he performs a strict series of daily tasks. For 42 years, his day has begun before dawn, as he picks out the best cuts of tuna and flatfish at the market and makes shopping lists. During the day, as he expertly shapes handfuls of rice and makes miso soup, his mind is filled with images from the diaries of the courtesan Murasaki Shikibu and her famous Tale of Genji. But while in his native language Ito can quote six hundred haiku, he is adrift in English, forced to speak in a sort of baby-talk. In Japan, he was a cultured man whose exact hand movements were ‘likened to the Enlightenment Poise of the Buddha’: in New York he is a ‘trained performer, a circus animal’. His American customers gape at his speed and ruin his creations with too much soy sauce, calling the raw food ‘slimy’ and asking: ‘do you guys have karaoke?’

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