Cult X by Fuminori Nakamura

 

Cult X by Fuminori Nakamura

Japanese Crime fiction

Original title – Kyōdan X (教団X)

Translator – Kalau Almony

Source – review copy

I read this a few months ago and decide I have a flick through it today it was one of those books I read and said got do a review and then life and everything got in the way. Anyway, Fuminori Nakamura is one of Japan’s leading crime writers he has won a number of prizes with his books including the Kenzaburo Oe prize one of the biggest book prizes in Japan he has been writing since his early twenties He has had a number of his books Translated into English. The events in this book were inspired by the events that lead up to the Sarin Attack in 1995 in Tokyo and the cult behind it. Strangely as I was reading this in the summer members of that cult were executed in Japan.

“…Cult X?”

What a strange name, Narazuki thought. Like the name of some trashy TV show.

“Have you told the police about this scam?”

“Matsuo-san didn’t want to” Yoshida said, lookinf fed up. “Because of whatever that old connection is between Matsuo-san and Sawatari.I don’t know the details”.

It bega to grow dark outside. Narazaki felt as though the lights inside were growing stronger – manmade lights stretching out everyone’s shadow

When he hears about Cult X he also has a feel of darkness drawing in around him !!

This follows one man as he tries to find his girlfriend. Toru Narazaki girlfriend has disappeared off the face of the earth and he is worried enough in the start to hire a private detective to try and find her. He only turns up that a cult is now connected to one-off her addresses. This is how Toru ends up following what Happened to Ryoko Tachibana also she is known as Rina. Toru has an interest in religion he has been attending talks by a man known as Matsuo.this leads to a dark cult called X which Toru is drawn into as we see the philosophy of its leader through lectures and discussions. She is in the groups compound he needs t get there but behind the fence is a world of a cult with power tri[ps sexual activities  violence and a leader that has lost it and is drawing his followers near the abyss of something that could end their lives but also of a lot of other people as he has brainwashed them so much. This all unfolds nicely as we follow Toru in the rabbit hole of a cult.

The leader was sitting in the dark. At first the woman thought he was sleeping, but then he made a slight movement, as if something small had gotten caught in his thrat. His eyes open briefly.

She examined his face carefully, but the leader closed his eyes again. It was like he had already forgotten the previous moments discomfort.He kept his eyes closed, even though right in front of him were many naked men and woman with only bath towels covering their bodies.

“Today is Monday,” Maeda-Kun said. His voice carried well. He had good posture. He was kind. And he wasn’t the only one – everyone here was kind.

The leader and his naked disciples all isn’t as it seems here.

This book is a writer question what happened with the 1995  Sarin Attacks and the cult and its leader that lead the attack. It is strange I have listened and seen a number of things about cults in the last twelve months. The last series of American Horror story had a cult as it’s storyline this showed how easy it is for ordinary people to get drawn into a cult when they have a few problems in their life. So the fact that Ryoko has a past she hasn’t ever talked about with Toru means this secret made her a perfect target for the cult and their Leader as she was damaged in a WayI also listen to a podcast about the Heavens Gate Cult which liked this showed how the Leaders tend to cherry pick the bits of different philosophies they like and mix them to there own end this is what the first part of the book shows is the ideas behind the cult and shows how when they have been brought by the followers they do the horrific events in the later third of the book which lift that dark curtain of the sex and violence and the abuse of power within the Cult it a slow-burning novel that draws the reader in with the last third that is engrossing and horrifies in equal parts. This is a beautiful book as well Soho has made a real effort in the hardback with the Huge X cut in the hardcover showing the devilish illustrated endpapers in the book.

 

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A cat, A man And two women by Junichiro Tanizaki

 

A Cat

A cat, a man and two women by Junichiro Tanizaki

Japanese fiction

Original title – Neko to Shōzō to Futari no Onna

Translator – Paul McCarthy

Source – personnel copy on Kindle

I have been using my Kindle a bit more recently as I had a few books I had brought cheap and want to read this being one of them. Tanizaki is a writer I had to want to feature on the blog for a while. He was one of the best writers of the mid 20th century. He himself was a translator working a lot during his life translating the Epic Tales of Genji into modern Japanese. He also was known forthright intimate nature of his writing. This is a lesser work but for me a very personal insight into a family life.

Shozo repeated the same thing over and over again. He would give her a fish, then himself a little drink, and calling ‘Lily’ would raise the next prize high. There must originally have been some twelve or thirteen mackerel on Shozo’s plate, each about two inches long, of which he himself had actually eaten perhaps three or four. For the rest, he had simply sucked out a bit of the vinegar dressing before giving the flesh to Lily. ‘Ohh-ohh … owww! That hurts!’ Shozo let out a shriek: Lily had leapt onto his shoulders and dug in her claws.

Shozo even feeds the cat more than himself

The book as the title suggests is about a Man Shozo, he is on his second marriage that is the two women referred to in the title of his first and second wives. There is also Shozo Cat Lily. The story focus on the relationship between the four characters. This happens when the first wife asks for Lily the cat back Shinako a seamstress by trade hasn’t got over losing her husband. She knows that Lily the cat may bring him back to her. Now his current wife isn’t a fan of Lily this is shown when she isn’t happy when she cooks 13 pieces of fish for her husband and he gives most of it to the cat. They even share the bed together at night. Who will win this power battle between the two women the rather lazy husband and the cat Lily?

Now, Fukuko was a cousin of Shozo’s; and, given the circumstances under which she became his wife, there was no need for her to worry about pleasing a difficult mother-in-law. So from her second day of married life, she did just as she pleased in everything. All the same, she could hardly stand by and watch her husband trying to wield a kitchen knife, so in the end she made the marinated fish for both of them, though under protest. To make matters worse, they had been dining off mackerel for five or six days running. Then, two or three days ago, it had struck her: Shozo wasn’t even eating the food he’d insisted on having, ignoring his wife’s complaints; instead, he was giving it all to the cat! The more she thought about it, the clearer it all became: the mackerel were small, with little bones, easily chewed; there was no need to fillet them, and they could be served cold; and one got a lot for one’s

He married a distant relative but his mother made life hard and now the cat and ex aren’t helping either !

This is really a mans ode to the cat. Lilly is the one character from the book I’d like to meet. Shozo is a lazy man that has lost one wife. But end with a younger model but at the end of the day is more into his cat than his wife even sharing the bed with the Cat then we have Shinako a perfect example of the scorned wife she wants to use Lilly as a pawn in her game to get back her man from the younger wife. She also loved this tortoiseshell cat and her man. This is one lonely lady that wants something back into her life. Fukuko his current wife has to find her place with him in there married life and somehow keep Shozo and keep him happy even if this means he gets to keep his cat! There is all of human life here love, loneliness, marriage, divorce and one man and his cat. This is a recent reissue from Daunt books and shows why it is good to bring lesser works by great writer back especially when like this they have a certain timeless feel to them. I haven’t read enough by him to say if this is the best entry book but I read it in a night and it brought a smile to my face and made me think of Winston and Merlin my two ex-pet dogs.

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

 

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His years of pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

IMG_1894

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 ?

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