Death by water by kenzaburo Oe

 

death by water by kenzaburo OeDeath by water , is meant to be the last novel  by the nobel winning writer . I have reviewed him once before on the blog his book personnel matter , a story of a father and his disabled child. Here we see a son trying to work out who his father was, whilst dealing with his own writers block.The book is driven by kogito Choko the main character in the book , he is a nobel winning writer, but is suffering from writers block at the moment. He is trying to write about his relationship with his father.Then he is given the chance to get a glimpse into his father as his sister offers him, their fathers red trunk which inside may contain the answers Kogito Choko is looking for .An insight into the drowned father he never really knew.This along side a theme of the writer himself and his disabled son . Then an avant-garde Theater group doing his works.What we have is a novel about legacy. There is a red trunk of his fathers things he has to open to find out about him and the drowning in 1945, also this may help his writers block on The drowning novel.

Nevertheless, I did make a stab at writing the drowning novel once, when I was in my midthrities. I had already published The silent cry, which seemed to prove that I had attained a certain degree of proficiency, and that accomplishment gave me the confidence to dive in at last.

I dashed off a rough prologue and sent it along with a number of related notes to my sixtysomething mother, who was living in the forest of Shikoku where I grew up. I enclosed a letter saying that in order to continue working on this book, which would focus on my father.

Choko had tried this his legacy book once before .

Oe has tackled a number of  great storylines here in this novel,  writers block especially after winning a big prize it is noted by this reader that kogito is a Nobel winner, for me I often feel writers have  struggled, after winning the big one whether it is the Nobel prize or even the booker, ask yourself which booker winner has written a book better than the one that won the prize(barring Mantel which is an actually a parts one and two of a trilogy ) same for Nobel winners , so kogito struggle with writer’s block is so much the story of writer wrestling to find a the story in this case a father son relationship , but also feel as thou he is breaking new ground. But as I say Legacy overhangs this will this book the drowned novel as it is called be his defining work as he wants it to be the key to his life?

Anyway in the rough draft of the prologue to the drowning novel, I wrote about something that had happened in 1945 – an incident that, at the time I had been dreaming about on a regular basis

Choko had dreamed since writing the piece in his midthrities of writing the drowned novel about his father but had got stuck.

Then there is the second story thread in the book at the most important one in this reviewers opinion the father son relationship , the motif of the missing father has long been a story in books and films. From Freud with his father complex  through Lacan talking of absent fathers.The going of rails absent father kids like Sebastian in Brideshead , to the kids that try to prove the absent father wrong. Then there is also the juxtaposed relationship of him and his son disabled like Oe’s own son. Is the trunk a metaphor for his father but also his son the case containing a legacy his fathers but also maybe he has his own trunk that he has to leave for his son.

“There work they’re doing is very post modern” Asa explained “Needless to say, their choice of a retro-sounding name was completely intentional. They borrowed their stage names. Suke and kaku from a couple of raffish sidekicks in the period drams Mito Komon, which had been running on television since these two first opened their eyes as infants.”

“sometimes fans of Suke &Kaku’s postmodern skits will come to a public performance by the caveman group and they’ll laugh uproariously at all the wrong places ” masso said wryly “It can be quite unnerving for everyone concerned – not just the actors but the rest of the audience as well ”

THe caveman group tackle Choko works in a fresh postmodern way .

Then there is the Legacy of a writers work. We see through Choko working with the avant-garde stage group the Caveman group, they have been staging his works. This is a way of him making a legacy but also the strange way they do his works may link him to his son thus forming a Legacy with him. I really connected with this novel a touching end of career novel from a great writer, thinking of his life but also his past present and future!! Beautifully translated by Deborah Boliver Boehm whether this is Oe last novel it is a great insight into the writers struggle when writing but also dealing with their own lives.

Japanese fiction

Translation – Deborah Boliver Boehm

Source – review copy

 

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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His years of pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His years of pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Japanese Fiction

Original title 色彩を持たない多崎つくると、彼の巡礼の年
Shikisai o motanai Tazaki Tsukuru to, Kare no Junrei no Toshi

Translator Philip Gabriel

Source – Personnel copy

“Fragments came floating into his mind like bits of wood drifting down a stream, and he fished them out and fitted them together.”

Elizabeth Gray Vining an american writer who taught the Japanese Emperor .Source

 

As I posted yesterday the first chance I got after it had come out I couldn’t resist getting the new Haruki Murakami novel ,especially as all I had read about this book made me sure it would be one of his I would really enjoy and I did .As my mum who visited last week remind me I have never been one to wait and mull over the pleasures in life ,no I always ate my pack lunches on school trips early ,ate snack at the cinema before the film had start and now I’m similar with books I really want to read so at Half one this morning I finally closed the cover of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of Pilgrimage with a big smile of satisfaction on my face .Now I usually in this opening section mention about the writer as I have reviewed Murakami four times before I feel the need to skip this just mention his books now only need his surname to sell the on the cover and he is one of the few writers in translation that transcends place and nationality like Proust, Tolstoy  ,Camus and Hesse for example where people seem less nervous in trying them out as writers

Something must have happened ,something had taken place while he was away to make them create this distance .Something inapproaite ,and offensive .But what it was – what it could pssibly be – he had no clue

He returns the first summer after college and things have change

Any way on to the book the story is that of Tskuru Tazaki ,he is a 36-year-old salary man ,his job which he loves is visiting and designing stations for the railway system ,which is great for Tsukuru because for as long as he can remember he has always loved train stations .He is single live in a small kondo he inherited and on the whole is and average man just getting through his life .Anyway he meets a women called Sara ,she like him and wants to know more about him and his life anyway we hear the story of the five, so to speak ,this is the story of Tsukuru two boys Akamatsu (red pine ) and Oumi (blue sea ) and two girls Shirane (White root ) and Kurono (Black field ) and of course from the title we know that Tsukuru name isn’t connected to a colour no his means to build which given his job seems very apt .Anyway the five of them are best friends at high school until one day they all say they don’t want to talk or hear from Tsukuru again .This leads Tsukuru to his current lonely life and the move to Tokyo where he can be invisible .Sara listen and sees how this one event set of the following years of his life and his current place in the world and persuades Tsukuru to go back and find this four friends and what had happened to make them cut off all communication all those years ago ! A journey that see him go back to his home town and even to Finland .As he uncovers the past and the lives his former friends have had since the split .

“What exactly do you do in the civil engineering department ? The student asked him .

“I build stations ” Tsukuru replied .

“Station ?”

“Railroad stations .Not tv station or anything .”

“But why railroad stations ?”

“The world needs them ,that’s why “, Tsukuru said ,as it were obvious

Tsukuru had always loved station he sketch and looked at them as a student .

Now I enjoyed Murakami last book but said at the tim e that it felt too Murakami almost as thou he was throwing every trait and trick of his writing into the pot .This has a number of his usual traits but is a lot more straightforward ,the book is really a retelling of a quest novel in the modern age ,Tsukuru is on a quest for the answer to what made his friends so suddenly drop him all those years ago .The other part of the title his years of  pilgrimage refers to a piece of music by Franz Liszt  Années de pèlerinage that one of the girls used to play on the piano ,this tune also is a recurring motif through out the book as we see it crop up in different versions as Tsukuru discovers his past .Another Murakami theme is given a slightly different twist here and that is the love triangle which here becomes a love pentagon ,as there are three boys in the group and two girls and Tsukuru says he has had erotic  dreams about both girls in the past and was attracted to them both for different reasons when they were friends .A return to form for me this book sold a million in its first week in Japan and is very much a book for his target market in Japan the middle-aged Salary worker even the length means it easily can be read on the commutes to work that many salary workers have to make on trains which of course is the last theme of the book ,I’ve heard Murakami talk in the past about his love of trains and railways .I was reminded of Betjamin and his love of Victorian stations and the way that seeped into his poetry ,in this book .

Have you read this or do you intend too ?

Botchan by Natsume Sōseki

Botchan by Natsume Sōseki

Botchan by Natsume Sōseki

Japanese fiction

Orginal title 坊っちゃん

Translator J cohn

Source – Library book

Another for Tony’s January in Japan project and another of those older Japanese writer I hadn’t got too  before now ,so this time it is Natsume Sōseki .He  was a writer from the Meiji period of writing ,he studied both Chinese and British literature .He wrote poems Haiku and Novels .He also left an unfinished book when he died .He is also on the 100 yen note in Japan .

In January of the sixth year after my mother’s death , the old man had a stroke and died ,That april I graduated from a private middle school ,and in June my brother graduated from his business school ,He took a job with some company , and was assigned to their office in Kyushu ,I still had to finish my education in Tokyo .My brother announced that he was going to sell of the house and all our parent processions before heading off to Kyushu .

How Botchan end up as a teacher a lot of bad luck .

Botchan is the name of title character of this book ,we meet him as he is finishing his education .But the path he had in mind is cruelly cut when his parents die and their home is sold by his older brother and he has to take a job as a schoolteacher in the very traditional area of Japan Matsuyama .So he starts to teach maths ,but is drawn into a world of tricks at the hands of the pupils as they see him as an easy target .Add to this a bunch of strange fellow teacher that have a lot of nicknames  which Botchan gave them when he arrived in his new job  they are ,the porcupine ,red shirt and the principal the badger .We see this young man torn between the modern Japan that he left and the old values and customs he is surround with here .Also he faces moral questions as things happen  around him ,as he has been brought up with very strong morals and is finding them challenged .

I got here yesterday .It’s a nothing place .I’m staying in a 15 mat room .I gave them a 5 yen tip and the lady who runs the place bowed down so low she scrapped her forehead on the floor .Last night I couldn’t et to sleep .I dreamed that you were eating those sweets ,bamboo leaf wrappers and all ,I’ll be back next summer .Today I went to school and I gave all the teachers nicknames ,The principal is the badger .The assistant principal is redshirt ,The English teacher is pale squash ,the other maths teacher is the porcupine ,and the art teacher is the hanger -on .I’ll write you more about it later .Goodbye !

Botchan maybe shows his youth with the nicknames after his first day in his new job .

I loved this and can see why that over a century after it came out it is still highly popular in Japan and outside Japan .Botchan is a young man on the brink of manhood  ,he is facing taking the right path for him or for what is expected  for him? He reminded  me a times of a later character from english fiction and that is the Paul pennyfather in Evelyn Waugh’s decline and fall, they share same reason of bad luck to end up being a teacher and both find the school and teachers they are surrounded with very strange at times .But also like Naomi which I reviewed earlier this month it tackles the changing face of Japan the traditional Japanese world and the modern Japanese world .This was also based on the writers own experience he spent three years teaching in the same region as Botchan was a teacher .

Have you read this or any book by Natsume Sōseki

The restaurant of love regained by Ito Ogawa

the restaurant of love regained

The restaurant of love regained by Ito Ogawa

Japanese Fiction

Orginal title 食堂かたつむり

Translator – David Karashima

Source – library

Well for my fourth book for Tony’s January in Japan event I decide to take a dive into something different I had seen this book in my library as it stacked next to Yoko Ogawa .I had looked at it and thought it was maybe not the sort of book that appeals ,but with recent talk of not reading or translating enough women into English I decide to give it a whirl .Ito Ogawa is a graduate of Classical Japanese writer ,she has been a writer since 199 writing poetry ,as a lyricist  of her husbands  band fairlife ,this book was her debut novel .

I came home from my part-time job at the Turkish restaurant to find my apartment empty .Literally everything gone .The television ,the washer ,the fridge .the lights ,the curtains .Even the netrance mat had been taken !

The opening lines as Rinko returns home to find her life has taken a turn for the worse .

The restaurant of Love regained is the story of a twenty-five year old girl Rinko ,she is living in the city with her boyfriend when she returns home one day to find her house empty her boyfriend has gone and left her with nothing .She faces a tough decision that is to return home to the mother she ran out on ten years earlier .She does and starts to mend her broken relationship with her family at the same time she opens a very small special restaurant called the snail ,this is a single table that serve the food the customer wants prepared specially every day a different feast that the customer loves  to eat .As a knock on effect strange things start to  happen to the people who visited the restaurant they start to have things go right for them after eating a meal at the snail .

In the beginning , many customers had been attracted by rumours of the snail as the place where dreams come true .nowadays ,people were returning because they simply wanted to eat here again .

The snail starts to become popular with the people who use it .

Well I liked this one not loved it ,it fell into that place I call lite magic realism the tinges of magic realism recalled like chocolate for water ,Chocolat and such .I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy this book but I wasn’t left with the desire to read her books again .But I did want to read a cook book if she did a cookbook at any point ,she does daily recipes on her website in Japan and that is the one thing that did shine through in this book is the writers obvious love of food .The is a touching feeling of family coming together again the bond between mother and daughter being rebuilt was very well written .But over all I would say this is a mid point book in the books I ve read in that I mean it has its good points but also its bad points .I must note this is the 400th book reviewed on winstonsdad as well .

Have you read books that you feel not so strongly drawn too for a change ?

 

The sea and poison by Shusaku Endo

the sea and poison

The sea and poison by Shusaku Endo

Japanese fiction

Orginal title 海と毒薬

Translator – Michael Gallagher

Source – personnel copy

I’m so happy that I have got round this years Japanese reading month by Tony ,I have finally got to cross of off some of the big names in Japanese fiction ,that I haven’t already read .Shusaku Endo is one of what is known as the third generation of writer from Japan that followed world war two .He is noted for being a catholic writer in Japan ,he worked in a munition factory during world war two .He published his first novel in 1955 ,this was the third book he wrote .

I soon found the wing containing the first surgical department ,where the vivisection had been performed pretending to be someone visiting a patient I climber to the third floor up to the third floor the wig consisted entirely of wards .In the corridors the smell of grime mingled with the permeating odour of disinfectant .

Visiting where the horrors had taken place .

The sea and poison is the story of one doctor  and two other people as he faces the horror of the after effects of what he had done in the war years in a small hospital he worked in .The doctor had been involved in an experiments on the prisoners in his care in particular one american that they do some horrific things to and offer no pain relief .and taking bits out and messing with other bits of the airmen he was meant  to be treating .Haunted by this post war we see it effect on three of the people involved at the time for them unfortunately none of the men they treated this way survived  the treatment .We see the three struggle to deal with the moral dilemmas  this act brought to each of them in civilian life .

“now ,don’t take it like that .this is for your country ‘s sake .They’ve all been condemned to death anyway .This way they can do some good for the advancement of medical science ” Dr Asai gave me all the reasons he didn’t believe himself .

How many people have done acts for just what was said here ?

Well I wish I had reach Endo earlier ,I loved the way this book confronted the past so openly ,to say it was written just twelve years after the war .I also hadn’t fully gather this had happen on the Japanese side in the war ,I knew the Germans did things like this during the war in fact many years ago ,I  worked with a Latvian man who I cared for that had procedures done  similar to the ones in the book ,so at times I did struggle to read the book at times remembering what had happened to the man I looked after ,but I also want the insight into what made people do acts like this .I loved the way he confront Peoples guilt and moral upheavals .Also how refreshing to see it done so soon after the war I struggle to thing of European based books that tackled the subjects so soon after the war .As I said I found the experience describe in the book hard as I kept remember someone I knew but it all so made me gather how lucky he was and also how brave as he made it seem everyday when he once in passing mention what had happened and it wasn’t .

Has a book ever effect you because of some you have known ?

Naomi by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki

naomi1

Naomi by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki

Japanese fiction

Original title -痴人の愛( a fools love?)

Translator – Anthony H Chambers

source – personnel copy

Jun’ichirō Tanizaki according to his Wiki entry is the second most well-known of the writers that took Japanese fiction into the modern age behind Natsume Sōseki .His books were known for the sexual and erotic content .His family were printers but after a huge earthquake in the mid 1890 he had to become a tutor in a house he went to university in Tokyo to study literature but left to become a full-time writer .A number of his books have been turned into film in fact one Quicksand has had four different versions made of it .Naomi this book has twice been made into a film .As you can tell Tanizaki is a major writer in the Japanese Canon .Also fitting to be my second book for January in Japan .

I’m going to try and relate the facts of our relationship as man and wife just as they happened ,as honestly and frankly as I can ,It’s probably a relationship with out precedent .My account of it will provide me with a precious record of something I never want to forget .At the same time .I’m sure my reader will find it instructive too .As Japan grows increasingly cosmopolitan .

Open lines show what I mean about Culture clash in this book .

 

Naomi is a love story ,story of a marriage ,story of a women coming of age and story of culture clashing .The story focus on a couple Naomi of the title in english is a bar girl but with a western yearning she likes all things western .She is saved from her life as a bar girl by  Jōji who marries  .He is in love with her as she seems so different to all the other women he knows ,he loves the western touches she has .But the relation ship has many twist and turns and it is a lot about who is in control of the Marriage as it ends up Naomi is 15 when she meets and starts the relationship with Jōji he is 28 so there is an age gap there and initially he use his superior position to control Naomi but over the course of the story you see Naomi is actually clever and very good at getting here own way and making Jōji tow the line .A lot of sexual power games in here and also fun of manners at times .

At first Naomi had looked after the house and done the cooking ,but this didn’t go on for more than six months or a year .An even bigger problem than the laundry was the house : it got messier and dirtier every day .

Naomi is never going to be the perfect housewife .

I loved this book it centred on a theme that I love in fiction and that is what I call culture clash here it is the western culture and traditional Japanese culture and of course the two of these in some ways represent the sides of this but there is also a sense the even thou Jōji is quite traditional at his heart ,even he likes the western things and maybe that is a metaphor for what happen to Japan post world war two ? This book was published in 1947 .Also the relationship and the way that Jōji help Naomi move on from being a bargirl actual remind me of The Pygmalion by George Bernhard shaw the way Jōji took Naomi and made her a lot more than she was ,but also the way Naomi saw what she could be as well .

Have you read this or any other novel by Tanizaki ?

The diving pool by Yoko Ogawa

the-diving-pool1

The diving pool by Yoko Ogawa

Japanese fiction

Translator – Stephen Snyder

Orginial titles – Dailbingu puru ,dormitori and Nishin Karenda

Source – Library

Well earlier in the year I read Yoko Ogawa latest collection revenge a collection of dark interlinking stories and feel in love with her style so knowing Tony was bound to do January in Japan again I decide to read another of her books and found this one in the library ,which was the first of her books to be translated into English .The bio on the rear cover tells me she has written more than 20 works of fiction and non-fiction so it means we will hopefully get some more of her books in English .It also said she had won every major prize in Japan and after this book one can see why .

SOmetimes I wish I could describe how wonderful I feel in those few seconds from the time he spreads his arms above his head , as if trying to grab something , to the instant he vanishes into the water .But I can never find the right words .Perhaps it’s because he’s falling through time ,to a place where words can never reach .

Aya describes the feeling as her adoptive brother Jun waits to dive .

The diving pool is a collection of three novellas that are all about fifty pages in length ,unconnected barring the fact the lead character in each story is a female and at that a seemingly unhappy female in different ways and for different reasons .The title story involves an adopted daughter and the actual son of the family she lives with ,she sits watch him in the diving pool .She falls in love with this Boy Jun ,but this leads her life in an unusual direction .Then we have a story about a women how may or may not be pregnant and her sister .There is a feel of more behind this story than there seems at first and also a wanting to know more of the sister who is recording here pregnancy in a diary .The last story involves two women that are related the older women is waiting to leave Japan but is drawn back to a college dorm by her younger cousin and a strange collection of people who are living there .All these novellas show how fragile humans can be .

May 16 (Saturday), 25 weeks + 5 days

Sometimes I think about my sister’s relation ship with her husband – particularly about his role in her pregnancy if he ever had one .

When she’s having on of her crises , he looks at her timidly and stammers meaningless little phrases meant to comfort her , but in the end all he can do is put his arm around her .The he gets the sweet expression as though he’s sure that’s all she really wanted anyway .

A sister record her sister pregnancy day by day but is there more to this than seems ?

I love the way Ogawa makes the world seem so dark ,without being depressing her prose are readable but tinge with the worst of human nature ,but also encompass the big moments in life here we have first love that is tinged with being wrong ,a women struggling having a baby .Two women face changes in the lives .I felt these were more unsettling after I had read them and sat back and thought of each one and what happened .There is something so simple in Ogawa prose style something so Japanese like the art of a bonsai or origami each sentence has been chosen and trimmed down to make each novella be perfect not to flabby so the point she is wanting to make shines through .

Have you read Ogawa ?

The Briefcase by Hiromi Kawakami

the briefcase

The Briefcase by Hiromi Kawakami

Japanese fiction

Original title – Sensei no Kaban

Translator Alison Martin Powell

Source – personnel copy

Well the last of the Japanese books for this month and it is one from this years Man Asian prize shortlist .Tony asked us all to post at the end of the month thankfully my copy arrived yesterday ,so I managed to read it overnight .Hiromi Kawakami is a graduate of Ochanomizu women’s college ,she published her first book in 1980 ,with her previous books she has won a number of prizes .This book won the prestigious Tanizaki prize in 2001 previous winners include Ryu Murakami ,Yoko Ogawa and Kenzaburo Oe .

His full name was Mr Harutsuna Matsumoto ,but I called him “Sensei “not “Mr ” or “Sir ” just ” Sensei ”

He was my Japanese teacher in High school .He wasn’t my homeroom teacher ,and Japanese class didn’t interest me much ,so I didn’t really remember him .Since graduation ,I hadn’t seen him for quite a while

Tsukiko saying why she calls him Sensei at the start of the book

The Briefcase or bag of Sensei is a love story .It was published in its native Japan as a serial so its chapters are short and tend to leave you wanting to read the next chapter .The story is the story of The sensei (Japanese for teacher ) and Tsukiko a former pupil of the Sensei who is now in her thirties ,the sensei is retired .The pair meet in a traditional Japanese bar .As the relation ship develops you see them doing many things such as watching the cherry blossom falling of the trees ,picking mushrooms and visiting an Island for a weekend away .This being Japan this very unusual relationship isn’t all about your full-blown passion, no it is more two lonely souls in the sea that is Tokyo that have end up being drawn together ,The sensei is like you would expect a very quiet man but he has the air of some one deep in thought and serious with it .Tsukiko is hard to read but he admiration and love for this older man seems unwavering and maybe you feel she has had her heart-broken in the past by a younger man .

“Sensei ,your is the special ,right ? ”

“that’s what they call it ”

“how is it different from the regular ”

We both bent our heads and examined the two boxed lunches .

“There doesn’t seem to be much difference at all” the Sensei said Amiably

They have lunch and compare lunches a humorousness moment .

 

This is a book that has been made into a Japanese tv series and a stage show A quick search of the internet ,I found a clip showing pics from the stage show .I was reminded of a UK TV series called may to December that was shown in the uk when I was growing up it involved a couple of similar age gap to the couple in the briefcase and actually similar characters to this book .The action was the same on the surface we seem different cultures but as may to December showed it was all about the being together more than the sex and the way the relationship develop was so well done by Kawakami like a time elapse picture capture the relationship stage by stage .Some wonderful moments of humur Tsukiko buying a grater for sensei when it appeared they’d fallen out or compare her normal packed lunch brought from the shop to his special of the same dish and deciding they were actually the same .The fact it was as a serial works well for this story I felt and didn’t feel uneven as sometimes novels made up of serial parts can.

Have you read this book ?

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

revenge by Yoko Ogawa

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

Japanese fiction

Original title – collected from various stories she has written .

Translator – Stephen Snyder

Source – Review Copy

I ve often seen Yoko Ogawa name mention and her books reviewed around the internet and had ordered Hotel Iris from the library for Tony’s January in Japan ,when this fell through my letter box so I decide to read this as I don’t get through many short story collections so this being described as dark and like classic poetry collections I decide to give it a whirl .Yoko Ogawa  grew up in a japanese christian family her grandfather was a teacher ,she grew ,loving literature in particular The diary of Anne Frank ,she then began working  and at 26 published her first book .She has written over twenty books over the last twenty five years .

He died twelve years ago .Suffocated in an abandoned refrigerator left in a vacant lot .When I first saw him ,I didn’t think he was dead.I thought he was just ashamed to look me in the eye because he had stayed away from home for three days .

The two women talk in the bakers in the story Afternoon at the bakery

So to revenge when I opened and read through the title poison plants ,welcome to the museum of torture ,I knew I was on to a strange collection so we open on the first story a mother is at a baker’s shop we meet two women and it turns out one is buying a cake for a son that had died many years ago as the chat away about what they’re doing in the bakery  .As you go through the stories we  start to see links through out ,elsewhere we have a pair of staff whose job is  collecting lab coats at a hospital then ,we see some at the same hospital  someone doing heart surgery in one of  the said  lab coat .The man who works at the strange Museum of torture happens to turn up in the next story doing a completely different job .

she rubbed her cheek against the bundle ;

“Do they have any of your books here ?” I asked .

“They do ” she said ,standing up and going to one of the  shelves .

” This is mine – one that managed to escape the burglar ” she said handing it to me .

Afternoon at the bakery .The book was slender ,and as tattered as her bundle .

The title of another story appears as a book in the story Tomatoes and the full moon

This collection is rather well done .The stories all tend to be  on the strange and unusual  side ,the collection , I was reminded me most of were the stories of Roald Dahl ,the ones that got made into tales of unexpected because a lot of these stories had that feel of weird glances into people’s lives and meeting  odd characters such as  the landlady that grows strange human hand shaped carrots in her garden for example .Another collection of short stories  I was reminded of was the collection by Dan Rhodes Timoleon Vieta come home ,which had a recurring motif through out its stories is that of the dog Timoloen vieta  appearing at some point during the story .Here the motif isn’t so clear but is there and is almost like the Japanese puzzle box my grandparents had where you had push this panel ,move this bit to finally open the box ,here there is a little bit of the previous story that appears in the next story and as you go along you see some other you have to go back and discover .Each story would make a great stand alone this is one of those collections where there is no weak link .The book comes out tomorrow in the uk .

Do you have a favourite collection of short stories from Asia ?

 

Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino

grotesque natsuo kirino

Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino

Japanese thriller fiction

Original title Gurotesuku

Translator – Rebecca Copeland

Source  Personnel copy

I tend to buy most books I see second-hand in translation ,that appeal on some level this was the case with this book I saw it in a charity shop last summer and put up on the shelf so when tony announced that he was doing January in Japan it seemed a perfect time to read this crime thriller .Natsuo Kirino is female Japanese writer .she is a leading figure in the current boom in female detective fiction this is the second of three crime novels she has had translated into English .She also writes romance novel in Japan under a different name .So to Grotesque the title is maybe a comment on the world that is involved in the book ..

It was the kind of navy-blue knee sock most everyone wore .Only this one had a Ralph Lauren logo on top

Everyone was completely nonchalant .No one seemed to care if they’d lost something because unlike me ,they could go out and buy another one .That is why I found it odd that this girl was making such a fuss over a lousy sock .She held it out to show her friends.

The school where it starts is rather posh .

Well I was a bit nervous about this book as I’m not a huge Genre reader at best of times .But as I started I was slowly drawn into this world of women with secrets ,those secrets selling their body to men for money and  two women that end up dead but have different journey into prostitution but did start at the same school growing up .these two women Yuriko and Kauze had problems at school but both end on the streets now they’ve been murder Yuriko younger sister is trying to find out what happened and is delving into the dark underground world that her sister ended up living in .She sees how via her Journal she start with rich business men but like a footballer that stays on playing to long she started to slid and ended on the street corner rather like seeing a once great player plying their trade for a lower league club .The world we are drawn into is very seedy her sister went to an expensive school and gets dazzled by the labels and life that she see this is how she ends up in the game so to speak .We see how these girls fall and how the police and the sister try to find the killer .

When I met Yuriko ,it spelled misfortune for us both .I heard from detective Takashi that Ms Hirata had once been beautiful and had worked as a model .Detective Takashi went on to say that as she grew old and ugly she became a cheap street-walker ” But I thought she was beautiful .

One of the men that her sister used to meet .

Well I wasn’t looking forward to much to the subject matter in this book but Kirino handles it with a careful hand not making the early life in prostitution with the rich business men  for the sister and her school friend seem to glamorous, she also makes the gritty descent  to street walker and the working and perverse men she meets on street corners seem real and Yuirko in particular is a character that in the end I felt really sorry for because she had it all and threw it away  and the way  she was murdered and how this one beautiful women had fallen .The lives are fleshed out by the fact a couple of chapter are written as if they are the girls journal .I felt this book had quite a feminist feel to it and about how women are viewed in Japan and how wrong this is sometime .  This isn’t so much a crime novel as a study into the underworld of prostitution and the men that use them the murders are only a sideline in the narrative .

Have you read this book or any books by Kirino ?

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