Marie’s Proof of Love by Mieko Kawakami

“Love doesn’t belong to any of us—it exists elsewhere, complete, from beginning to end. We simply have the privilege of coming into contact with it every once in a while.”

The dreamlike mood permeating this short story by Mieko Kawakami is reminiscent of Elisabeth Thomas’s Catherine House, Sylvia Plath, and Fleur Jaeggy’s Sweet Days of Discipline. The idyllic scenery is counterpointed by Marie’s disenchantment. We learn that, alongside other girls, she stays at Mia dormitory, a place which, unlike her home, is safe. A former lover, Karen, wants to know if Marie really loved her, and this leads to a discussion on love, God, transcendence.
The story also touches on the grief experienced by Anna, a guardian at Mia dormitory, over her one-year-old daughter’s sudden death. With clarity Kawakami renders Anna’s sorrow, allowing Marie’s feelings to be more opaque, ambivalent even.
Despite the story’s short scope, Kawakami is able to capture Anna’s grief and Marie’s alienation and loneliness. ‘Marie’s Proof of Love’ makes for a contemplative piece that is at once intriguing and poignant.

“Marie’s proof of love was a sentimental cliché. But she had arrived at it herself. To give shape to her unformulated thoughts was an arduous task as if she were performing surgery on her own body, grasping what lay whirling around her throat, cutting and sewing them into words.”

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My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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