Thirty-something Claire is a Swiss citizen of Korean background, a country she has never visited. The novel opens with her travelling to Tokyo, where her grandparents live. On arrival at Shinagawa station, her objective is simple: to persuade them to return for a time to Korea, the country they loved, fled from during the Korean War and have since learned to forget. In Japan, she also gives French lessons to Mieko, a Japanese girl who constantly mirrors Claire’s own
The Pachinko Marbles
Pachinko is a game for both groups and individuals.” This quotation from Roland Barthes opens Elisa Shua Dusapin’s most recent novel, The Pachinko Marbles. A group game because the arcades where pachinko – a Japanese variation on pinball – is played are full of rows of adjacent slot machines and an individual game because, when you play, you are intensely alone. The Swiss-Korean author uses this metaphor to tell a story; a story that tackles the issues of identity and otherness, through the prism of language and culture.