Right, it’s 01JAN so I really should tell you about my plans for the January in Japan reading month. :)
I don’t intend to only read Japanese-themed books this month but I’ll be reading and reviewing at least five between now and the 31st. Here’s what’s on my bedside bookcase:
Widely acknowledged as Yasutaka Tsutsui’s masterpiece, PAPRIKA unites his surreal, quirky imagination with a mind-bending narrative about a psychiatric institute that has developed the technology to invade people’s dreams.
Paprika sounds a touch more sci-fi than the books I normally read but it sounds really interesting. I have an e-book copy via NetGalley as this is due to be re-published by Vintage on 05FEB2013.
This moving and deceptively simple story, a melancholy tale shot through with glimmers of joy, beauty, and gentle wit, is an understated masterpiece by one of Japan’s greatest writers. At the end of his life, Natsume Sōseki declared THE GATE, originally published in 1910, to be his favorite among all his novels.
This is a new translation of The Gate that was published by NYRB in December. I’ve never read any Soseki before and the ‘quietness’ of this tale and the fact it was his own favourite make this one appeal to me.
On Monday 20 March 1995 the Japanese Aum cult released a deadly cloud of Sarin nerve gas into the Tokyo underground. 12 people were killed and an estimated 3,800 suffered serious after-effects. Murakami’s response was to interview as many of those affected as he could (only 60 victims were willing to be questioned) as well as members of the Aum cult to investigate the impact of this horrifying event.
I was debating what non-fiction choice to throw into my Japanese themed reading and remembered I’ve had Underground by Haruki Murakami languishing unread on my bookshelves for a couple of years. It seemed a good combination of Murakami’s writing style and perhaps a little cultural insight?
This is a story set on Shodoshima, a small island in the Inland Sea and the lives surrounding a primary school teacher, Miss Oishi, and the twelve island children (the twenty-four eyes of the title) in her first class. From the minute Miss Koishi arrives in March 1928, she is seen as ‘modern’ because she wears Western clothes and rides a bicycle, at the time, Japan is going through a change with the first election of the new Universal Suffrage Act taking place in February of the same year.
Moving back and forth in time and focusing on how the children and Miss Oishi are affected by WWII, Twenty-Four Eyes by Sakae Tsuboi sounds like a good book to give me a better understanding of Japanese civilians thoughts on the war.
He is a brilliant maths professor with a peculiar problem – ever since a traumatic head injury seventeen years ago, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory. She is a sensitive but astute young housekeeper who is entrusted to take care of him. Each morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are reintroduced to one another, a strange, beautiful relationship blossoms between them. The Professor may not remember what he had for breakfast, but his mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past.
I’ve been meaning to read The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa for about the last six months after seeing several good reviews and never quite got round to it, this challenge is the spur I needed!
So that’s what I’m planning to read as part of January in Japan but if you have any suggestions for other good-for-newbies Japanese titles please let me know as I’m sure I’ll continue reading more Japanese books throughout the year. And, of course, say hi if you’re taking part! :)