The apparently unremarkable Natsumi lives in a modern Tokyo apartment with her husband and two sons: she does the laundry, goes to the supermarket, visits friends, and gossips with neighbors. Tracing her conversations and interactions with her family and friends as they blend seamlessly into her own infernally buzzing internal monologue, Mild Vertigo explores the dizzying reality of being unable to locate oneself in the endless stream of minutiae that forms a lonely life confined to a middle-class home, where both everything and nothing happens.
With shades of Clarice Lispector, Elena Ferrante, and Kobo Abe, this verbally acrobatic novel by the esteemed novelist, essayist, and critic Mieko Kanai—whose work enjoys a cult status in Japan—is a disconcerting and radically imaginative portrait of selfhood in late-stage capitalist society.
In the vertigo lurking at the depths of a very ordinary life, Mieko Kanai succeeds in uncovering the tranquility and cruelty that exist side by side.
— Yoko Ogawa, author of The Memory Police
Laden with descriptions of objects and locations, Kanai’s detail-rich sentences offer a specificity of time and place. A subtle, thoughtful portrait of a woman chafing at the demands and constraints of domestic life.
— Kirkus Reviews (Starred)
For me, Mieko Kanai’s writing represents one of the high points of Japanese literature. The tiny details giving shape to the everyday, the daily repetitions, the memories that come suddenly flooding back, other people’s voices—all these described in winding, iridescent prose. Their utter ordinariness, their utter irreplaceability, make for a reading experience brimming with joy from start to finish.
— Hiroko Oyamada
Mieko Kanai is not interested in describing objects; she wants to accentuate their amorphous nature.
— Sofia Samatar, The Paris Review
"Like Mrs. Dalloway, Mild Vertigo plunges the reader into the mind of a woman of comfortable means who is trying to make sense of her world even as she is bombarded by a tumult of impressions, memories, worries, constraints. My thoughts began to mimic the buzzy, galumphing rhythms of Natsumi’s interior world. I began to wonder whether I had always thought this way, whether this book was making me aware of the true nature of my mind for the first time. Such is the mesmerizing wonder of Kanai’s prose, as translated by Polly Barton."
— Claire Oshetsky, The New York Times
Kanai is known for her mind- and genre-bending writing. But the brilliance and originality of Mild Vertigo lie in its subtlety. Kanai isn’t doing anything wild; in fact, she’s doing just the opposite, and the result is strange and delightful.
— Eve Sneider, Wired
Mild Vertigo remains a short but monumental read that captures the human experience in fresh, evocative prose. Under Barton’s assured hand, the philosophical underpinnings of Natsumi’s worldview teeter into sight, fleeting yet profound.
— Kris Kosaka, Japan Times
The text generates urgency and momentum by recreating the experience, recognizable to most people, of constant motion and total immersion in information communicated by an overabundance of visual signifiers.
— Stephen Piccarella, n+1
Anglophone readers of Mieko Kanai’s whirling, urgent novel Mild Vertigo will face only one disappointment: There’s not yet much more where it came from.
— Lily Meyer, The Atlantic
Mieko Kanai’s writing – encompassing fiction, poetry and criticism –has been sorely overlooked in the English-speaking world, so the new translation of her 1997 novel Mild Vertigo is a welcome arrival. The book is a surrealistic portrayal of quotidian middle-class life in late-20th century Japan.