>Set in Paris, the narrator is concerned about Fumiko, another foreign student. He, it turns out, was born in Japan but was adopted as an infant and grew up in Denmark, speaking no Japanese. Fumiko, who in Japan had a nervous breakdown, appears to be relapsing. Meanwhile, the narrator takes a job translating from French to English for a physicist, including his treatise, “On the Persistence of Sorrow in Gravitational Interactions.” Meanwhile, the students’ relationship is hard on Fumiko, who is reminded by him of Japan, even though he thinks of himself as Danish, not Japanese.
“There was an expression my father sometimes used, back in Denmark, kereste sorg—sweetheart sorrow—to describe the sadness one feels at the thought of a love affair nearing its end.”
And that’s essentially what the story is about. What appeals to me most about this story is the intersection of the narrator’s two relationships—with Fumiko and the physicist—and the unsettling setting (stranger in a strange land) that provides built-in tension. According to the Q&A with the author, this is his first story.
June 11 and 18, 2007: “Sweetheart Sorrow” by David Hoon Kim