Canada: "The taste of the lion" of the Japanese Ito Ogawa: a radiant novel on the end of life

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The Japanese writer Ito Ogawa approaches with great delicacy the subject of the end of life, in a solar novel.

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The author of the bestseller The restaurant of love found (2008) or the Tsubaki stationery (2016), Ito Ogawa returns with the tasting of the lion, a solar novel on the dark subject of the End of life, published on August 25 at Picquier editions.

History: Shizuku, in the thirties, is suffering from cancer at an advanced stage. Despite his fierce fight against the disease, the moment arrives when doctors announce that she is condemned. The young woman, without family, decides to go and spend the last moments that remain to live on a small island of the Sea of ​​Seto nicknamed "The Lemons Island".

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On Christmas Day, she is welcomed at the Lion house, a palliative care center led by a funny little good woman who calls herself Madonna. Immediately, Shizuku feels good, "as in a cocoon", in this place where she says, we feel "as a look at a unknown with a smiling face".

Taste life

In this house, the young woman meets the Kano sisters, mistresses of the kitchen, a strategic place, but also "boss", or "maestro" and the others, the residents of the house called here "guests" and who can if they want to choose another name. She also meets Taichi, a young winegrower installed in the vicinity of the house, with whom Shizuku likes to spend time. She met him thanks to Rokka, a little female dog whom she admitted upon her arrival at the Lion House, realizing her childhood dream.

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In these last moments, Shizuku thinks back to his life, to his happy childhood with his adoptive father, to the sorrow of having been separated when he married. But neither these memories nor its pains, that the house endeavors to soften as much as possible, prevent it from enjoying every moment of what remains of life, in an atmosphere bathed in light, beauty and pleasure .

Music, massages, drawing, but especially the pleasures of the mouth, dear to the novelist punctuate the lives of those whose days are counted. So every Sunday, the house offers a dessert concocted at the request of a resident, "a dessert that lives in their memories and that they would like to eat again". The ritual wants Madonna to read before tasting a text written by the applicant, who recounts his memories linked to this dessert. There are thus revealed slices of life, shared at the same time as snack with the other residents of the Lion House.

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"Until the last drop"

in this novel on the end of life and on death, deployed in the first person, it is especially of life that it is a question. Without eluding the darkest and most trivial aspects of the disease, the novelist describes with infinite delicacy this last stay of Shizuku, and through the story of this counted time, it is a whole life that she scrolls under our eyes.

As Doctor Sabra, who was seen accompanying his patients towards death in the film during his lifetime, of Emmanuelle Bercot on the same subject, Madonna makes every effort, despite the disease and the imminent arrival of death , so that his residents savor "the delight of life to the last drop", and manage to make peace with themselves and with their loved ones, "that they put their office", would have said Doctor Sabra, before the big departure.

everyone is not lucky to end their days in a place that already looks a little like paradise, but describing in this bright novel an "ideal" place to leave the world, the Japanese novelist reminds us how much desire of life beats until the last breath when the pain is taken into account, and relieved, and questions us about the delicate question of the treatment of people at the end of their lives. A soft novel like a light breath.

The taste of the Lion , of Ito Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Deborah Pierret Watanabe (Picquier, 272 pages, € 19)


"I had only one desire: to rest while contemplating the sea. I wanted to sleep with a peaceful sleep, without having your arms bristling with pipes. This was what pushed me to choose the lion's house. Because it was the only place where you could see the sea Every minute of the day. Why was I so attached to the sea? Why not the mountain, a river or the forest? I didn't really have an explanation. I just had the impression that it was what 'There was closest. Paradise. But I thought I made the right choice. Because since my arrival, my heart seemed to be protected, sheltered from an unchanging and solid enclosure, like the sea who surrounded the island. " (The Lion snack, p. 20)

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