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Reading Horizons For Japanese Literature Challenge

Events like the Japanese Literature Challenge give me a great excuse to have a rummage through the shelves and stacks of my owned but unread books (otherwise known as the TBR).

I was surprised to find I own more books by Japanese authors than I expected. Some of these clearly crept into the house when I wasn’t looking.

Let’s look a little more closely at what I could be reading over the three months of this year’s challenge.

Sixty Four by Hideo Yokoyama is his sixth novel but the first to be translated into English. It became a publishing phenomenon in Japan, selling at the astounding rate of a million copies in six days. This is the only crime novel in my little collection, focusing on the disappearance of two young girls. This is a massively chunky book , which is probably why I haven’t tackled it yet.

Then we have two authors of enormous international repute.

Haruki Murakami is an author I’ve been unsure about reading for some years because so much of his work seems to involve fantasy/surrealism elements. The only one of his books I’ve read is Norwegian Wood which I loved but which I understand isn’t typical of his style. Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is perhaps edging more towards the mysterious/strange atmospheric elements found in his best-known novels like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

Kazuo Ishiguro is the author of one of my all time favourite Booker Prize winners with The Remains of the Day. Oddly however I’ve never read any of this other novels. As you can see I have two options: the very fat The Unconsoled and the considerably slimmer Nocturnes. I’m not entirely clear why I bought Nocturnes since it’s a collection of short stories and I don’t typically enjoy reading those. Maybe this will change my mind?

The last author in this little group is another that I’ve only dipped my toe into as it were. Yukio Mushima is regarded by many critics as the most important Japanese novelist of the 20th century. I was mesmerised by After The Banquet although I admit that I didn’t understand many elements of the book.

The Decay of the Angel that you can just see in the image is a book I bought in a charity shop but I couldn’t have been paying close attention because it’s the fourth title in  his famous  Sea of Fertility tetralogy I don’t have the first three parts so there isn’t much point in reading this yet.

Which brings me to the big question? Which of these am I going to read first?

I’m going with the Murakami.

It might be the only one I get to read for Japanese Literature Challenge this year. But as I explained in my post about my 2020 reading goals, I’m focusing this year on short events rather than long reading challenges. So if I get to read just one book per event, I’ll class that as success.

If you are familiar with any of the titles I’ve mentioned do let me know what you thought of them. Do you have any favourite Japanese authors I can add to my list for future years?? Do leave me a comment with your suggestions and recommendations.

#Read into 2016 – at the midnight hour I was reading

Read into 2016Having challenged you all to stop the reading clock at midnight on New Year’s Eve 2015 and share what you were reading at that time, I obviously had to take a dose of my own medicine. So here is the low down on my #readinto16

Though I’m not much of a party animal and in fact hate all the whooping that greets New Year’s Eve, when the clock struck the hour, I was enjoying a glass of bubbly with a few friends at home. So I was not actually reading at that moment (it would have seemed a bit rude wouldn’t it to rush off and stick my nose in a book??). Maybe other hostesses could have managed that with aplomb but not yours truly. So I will simply share what was on my bedside table at the time: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami.

readinginto16

This is the first time I’ve read anything by Murakami. I’ve seen those big fat titles and thought them a little daunting (plus they seemed a bit sci-fi which I don’t get on with too well) . But during a business trip to the States I was at the bookstore looking for a book to read on the flight home. I was staring at Murakami, taking each one off the shelf and scrutinising it while debating whether this would be the moment to give him a go. I hadn’t noticed a colleague had come to stand next to me but he reached out, picked out a book from the shelf, handed it to me and said simply “take this one, it’s the best one he’s written, just wonderful.” It was Norwegian Wood.

That was three years ago and it’s taken me until now to get around to opening it. I’m glad I did because although I’m only about a third of the way through, I love it. You know how there are some books that you start reading and before too long you just know this is made for you? Norwegian Wood is one of those experiences.

To describe it as a love story makes it sound slushy. It is about love but it’s also about memory and loss. I have to force myself to read it slowly because I’m afraid of missing some of Murakami’s beautiful prose in my rush to know what happened in the love affair between the young Japanese students.

It’s getting 2016 off to a brilliant start……

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