Another World, a novel by Yoshimoto Banana, with drawings by Alicia Bay Laurel

When I met Yoshimoto Banana in September 2009, I asked her if she’d like my illustrations for her next book. It turned out, she did. Here it is, published on May 30th, 2010, with one of my drawings on the cover and one opposite the title page (the drawing below).

The assignment was this: an ink line drawing of a woman, a cat and a plant. I made nine of them and send them all for consideration. Banana-san and her publisher chose two. Here are some of the out-takes.

The novel is not translated into English yet, but gist of the story, as I understand it, is this:

A young woman falls in love with an artist who is grieving his departed wife. The artist keeps drawing pictures of the wife, who was not really a human, but a cat in human form. His wife cared only about other cats, and thought the kind of things cats think. Eventually, though, he does come to appreciate the young woman and return her love. Along the way we also get an environmental message about making a better world. The title of the work is “Another World.”

Banana-san wrote in the afterword of her book:

It is my feeling that the difficult times we are facing now will continue for a while.

We should trust in our intuitions and instincts and not lose sight of ourselves. Otherwise, we’ll find it too hard to keep living in this world. In such times, I hope this novel of mine will stay close to the reader as a useful tool to overcome such difficulties, even if for a little while. You don’t have to follow the same lifestyle as the characters in the novel. It’s just my wish that you will at least read and feel their emotions that constantly vibrate in sympathy with Nature.

This series of novels titled “Kingdom” has been written during a peculiar period of my life. It has been hard work, but I do adore my characters.

Also, this is going to be the last novel that my father had read with his own declining eyes, because he has lost his eyesight now. He has seen the sceneries of this novel with his heart; I will hold this fact in my arms for the rest of my life.

Since my childhood, I have admired Alicia Bay Laurel, the author of “Living on the Earth”. I always wished that someday I would also be living in a forest like she does. The reality is that I am still living in Tokyo as an author. Even so, that wish is still there, just like in those long ago days.

When I met Alicia, she told me once that she could draw a picture for the cover of my book. I was so overwhelmed with joy, I didn’t know what to say. In my mind I was pinching my cheek to make sure that I was not dreaming.

She has no equal when it comes to drawing the most appropriate picture for this novel. She is the person who has cast a most beautiful spell on this novel. And I thank her for that.