Antonietta Pastore, well known as the Italian translator of many Haruki Murakami novels as well as many other moderns and contemporaries, is also a skilled author in her own right; she has been awarded the 'Settembrini' prize with her novel Leggero il passo sul tatami. Mia amata Yuriko is her most recent work, published this year, and it takes its inspiration from the life of her ex-husband's aunt, which Antonietta met during a trip to Etajima, as much as from the recollections of the author's mother-in-law. Details have been filled by imagination, but the love story between Yuriko and Yoshi is, for the most part, believable and grounded in facts.
Through the words of the narrator we meet Yuriko, a strong yet pampered and sheltered woman: she was in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and she was therefore exposed to radiation fallout. The novel chronicles the love story between the woman and Yoshi, narrating her anxiety and grief while waiting for her husband to return from the front, as well as the hope for a better future that only love can nurture.
The most tragic parts of the novel deals with war, the frailty of the human condition, and the many problems that we must face in daily life. Wartime was a difficult period, in which even the mandarin jam Yoshi offered Yuriko on their first date was a luxury to be savored. To this the author adds the experience of the atomic bomb, lived by the characters as a testament of strength by the US, ultimately unnecessary and mostly dropped as a test.
It's not by chance that Antonietta's chronicling of Yuriko's life almost coincides with the Fukushima incident. After the tsunami and the atomic crisis, vast areas have been evacuated and old discrimination against irradiated people have returned: people have been denied housing, engagements have been broken, children have been bullied.
Sixteen years of life in Japan bolster the author's capability to enter the minds of her characters, vividly retelling the love protagonist's love story as strongly as the tragedy of the nuclear disaster. After all, in her own words, it's women who have become twice victims, in the crises' aftermath.