‘Instantanés d’Ambre’ by Yoko Ogawa, a Dreamlike, Powerful Novel

In this claustrophobic setting, a mother shuts her three children away to protect them from danger in an ambiance that is sombre but hopeful.


© Ulf Andersen

When Yoko Ogawa arrived in France to promote the release of her novel Instantanés d’Ambre (yet to be translated into in English), she came armed with a suitcase full of green tea. In everyday life as in her novels, Yoko Ogawa leaves nothing to chance.


Sensitivity to sounds

The novel—the story of a quiet mother who protects her children by hiding them away in a villa surrounded by high walls—has an ambiance that’s somewhere between life and death, sombre and yet full of light. The mother asks her children to choose new names (they select Agate, Amber, and Opal), thinking that this will shield them from danger. This rich and subtle world creates a presence that’s sensitive to sounds, murmurs, and also silence. The novelist proves once again that she is a major figure in Japanese literature.


Instantanés d’Ambre (2018), a novel by Yoko Ogawa, is published by Actes Sud (not currently available in English).

© Actes Sud