Welcome to the Museum of Torture by Yoko Ogawa

I think we’ve all be there, and anyone who says they haven’t is lying. Or maybe I am just a twisted individual who should get my head looked at. What I’m talking about, of course, is the break up gone so horribly bad that you begin fantasizing about all the horrible things that could (and should!) happen to your newly minted ex. Maybe it’s just hoping they look stupid in front of their friends. Maybe it’s that they lose something important. Maybe you have some revenge fantasy so elaborate you’ve settled on the exact number of times you will stab them in the face. (It’s six). Okay, maybe not the last one. Maybe.

Yoko Ogawa’s Welcome to the Museum of Torture is kind of about that. A woman’s boyfriend walks out after she can’t stop talking about the murder in her apartment complex. This sets in motion the events that carry the woman to a museum she’s never noticed before in town, a museum that occupies a creepy old house. It’s the Torture Museum, naturally, and the museum only displays instruments of torture that can be proven to have been used.

The themes of death, misery, and torture find their way subtly into this story, even though they are overtly spoken of. That’s some masterful translation work on Stephen Snyder’s part right there. But even with the death, the dying, the horrors of every day life right on the surface, Museum of Torture manages to remain quiet. It’s almost a meditation on hatred, which makes it more awful than had it been a loud, bombastic tale.

Welcome to the Museum of Torture by Yoko Ogawa is one of eleven dark tales features in her short story collection Revenge. It was an impulse-borrow from my local library, but I will be adding it to my permanent collection.

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