The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

Japanese fiction

Original title –  猫の客

Translator – Eric Selland

Source – personal copy

I now head back to Japan for the third book for this years January inJapan event and I decided to look at my TBR pile of books and one I had brought just because I liked the Cat on the cover I worried the book was going to be one that I wouldn’t enjoy but I decided as I had just brought another Japanese bestseller about a cat it was time to read this cat book. The book was written by the Japanese Poet Takashi Hirade he was born in Moji and lives in Tokyo with his wife who is also a poet. He was described by Kenzaburo Oe as a poet who creates new prose from poetry. He has published over twenty books and edited a series of books in Japan.

Another one pf Chibi’s characteristics was that she changed the direction of her cautious attention frequently. This active behaviour wasn’t limited to her kittenhood. Perhaps because she played alone most of the time in the expansive garden, seh reacted strongly to insects and reptiles. And there were times when I could only conclude that she must be reacting to subtle changes in the wind and light, not detectable by humans. It may be that most cats share the same quickness, but even so, in Chibi’s case, it was acute – she was after all, the cat of Lightning Alley. My wife got into the habit of pointing to the cat whenever it went by, extolling its virtues.

Early on in his time with the couple.

The book in some ways is autobiographical to the writer’s own life as he was a writer. The story follows a couple in the mid-thirties in the mid-1980s as they move into a small house that is part of a larger estate within the grounds just of an alley in a quieter part of Tokyo. When they rent they are told early on that they can have no children or pets. They are a writer and proofreader so spend their days at home. So when a cat appears a white cat with patches of brown(I thought of my parent’s cat truffles she was pure white but in that coat, you could see what was a tabby pattern in white anyway back to the book) The cat they invite in as a guest to there home and Call him Chibi’s and his independent nature and his skill when he plays with a ping pong ball. He initially bits the wife but she gets to like him. The cat gives this couple that is in the same house but may be caught up in themselves something to focus on. The cat comes and goes as we view them interacting with him and what he meant to them as they see the world starting to change due to events around them.

We made a door to the rooom that only Chibi could get through, not any other cats.Below the lagrge window on the south wall, there was a floor-level window of frosted glass about sixteen inches tall running the full length of ones above it, for sweeping out dust. By opening this window just three inches , a gap was leftnwhich allowed only Chibi to squeeze through. In order to prevent cold air and insects from getting in, we hung a thick cotton curtain of royal blue over it.

On the wooden floorbardfs in a corner of the Japanese style room, we placed a cardboard box, which had orginally contained mandarin oranges, to act as Chibi’s own special room. we put a  towel in the box and a dish for her food. Then we set a bowl for milk beside  the box.

They make him feel welcome as their guest with his own door and box !!

This is one of those gentle books that are a pleasure to sit and read at its heart is maybe the loneliness of city life even a couple can be a part in the same small cottage til Chibi’s appearance. Also, another thread in the book is the garden is so well described with the bird’s trees etc described the garden is almost like an oasis in the city. This is like those films I love and Myamanda happens and that is where nothing happens but the world we see and are drawn into is the beauty of the journey. The time in their house gives them a breathing gap in the chaotic world of Tokyo this oasis and that stray white cat that has come into their lives is may be a way for them to move on in their own lives anyway that is what I felt this is one of those books that was a bestseller because it is one of those books that grab the imagination of the reader and gives you a couple of hours in the company of a couple and their guest cats. Have you read this book or any of his other books?

Winstons scores – B The tale of a cat that likes to visit families as a guest.

People from my Neighbourhood by Hiromi Kawakami

People from my Neighbourhood by Hiromi Kawakami

Japanese microfiction

Original title – 大きな鳥にさらわれないよう

Translator – Ted Gossen

Source – Library copy

I decided to go to the library for the first time in a long time as I thought I had a fine left from pre-Covoid as I had tried to order some books the other week but when I went in I must have paid the fine at the time it was just the card needed an update it was fun to browse again it had been to long and with the Booker international longlist coming up I will be trying to find some books I haven’t read before. One of the first \i found was this very short collection of micro-stories from Hiromi Kawakami who is one of those writers who I had read when she had her debut book out here 9 years ago but haven’t got back to even though I like the Briefcase when I reviewed it so it felt like it was time to try her books again and this was the perfect afternoon read and the second book for this years January in Japan reads. The book is narrated by an unnamed narrator.

A white cloth was lying at the foot of zelkova tree, When I walked over and picked it up, I saw a child underneath.

“What’s the big idea?” Thwe child glared at me, It had narrow eyes but thick eyebrows. I couldn’t tell if it was a girl or a boy.

Ooops. Sporry! I apologized. But the child kept glaring at me. Are you playing hide and seek or something? It shook its head vigorousily from side to side.

“I live her,” it said

The child in the story the secret lives under a cloth under a tree

The book is a collection of very short stories of a neighbourhood very odd one thou, with a collage made of sweets a town full of odd characters and time has a fluid nature as some stories are immediate other last decades. Oh, people changing to pigeons in their habits. I knew this was an odd collection when the first story is about a child that lives on a cloth under a tree that then adopt and stay young and has a weird dance after showers. This is followed by a description of chicken Hell in the second story. Other stories describe a dog let loose they call black that dies. The Dog is a recurring theme as is a girl called Kanae first crops up in a tale about her clever sister then we see her become a model after going off the rails in her younger year a look at how peoples perceptions can change over time.

Blackie was vicious.

Blackie was the name we gave the black dog that belonged to Kiyoshi Akai. He called it John, but there was nothing John-like about it. No a common black Japanese mutt like that could only be called Blackie

Blackie was a barker. Not only did he bark, he nit – and not playful little nips. His bites were serious the kind that draw blood we often saw his victims in the front of Akais house complaining. “Look at the blood!”they’d bellow. “What are you going to do about it?” Yet the boy and his mother always appeared quite unpertubered.

The Black dog Blackie is a dog left to room and bite the locals til something happens !!

This is an odd collection of stories. They are very funny and surreal in nature they have a fun feel to them and you can tell she must enjoy using the voice of this narrator and the town she describes. I loved the way she lays in recurring characters like Kanae and her family the black dog and its own a man that no one seems to like and dogs, Birds chickens and pigeons. I was reminded of studio Ghibli films at times with humans becoming like Pigeons was like something out of those films also the neighbourhood with its mix of real and fantasy I have seen in a film like Totoro by them were the modr=ern japan mix with an ancient spiritual past. This book mix real life and surreal things happening like win a wish lottery and how different winners use their three wishes which one man changes his wife which is very funny as it backfires on him. That is one of the things I felt there is a fable-like feel to these stories a warning behind the fun nature of these stories. This is a collection hard to pigeonhole as the stories are very interlinked with the recurring themes and all being set in the same neighbourhood as she builds up the layers it is almost a novella with short chapters or a micro-fiction collection it is 90 pages and read within a couple of hours. Have you read this collection or any of her other books?

Winstons score – B solid fun collection ideal for a commute or an evening read

 

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Japanese Memoir

Original title – 走ることについて語るときに僕の語ること
 Hashiru koto ni tsuite kataru toki ni boku no kataru koto

Translator – Philip Gabriel

Source – Personal

I’m on my third book of the year and the first for this month January in Japan is a book I’m rereading something I haven’t done a lot of in recent times but this year I thinking I may throw a few books in like this books I read pre-blogging days this one IO had thought I reviewed but it appears I haven’t so when looking for books for this month this one jumped out at me as I had recently seen it mentions in a book vlog video and remembers how much I loved it the first time around and wonder if I would second time round. I am not a runner but like a walk every now and then here and there. The book is a memoir of his running life and how it has had a knock-on effect on others.

I began living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the end of MAy of this year, andf running has once again becomd the mainstay of my daily routine ever since. I’m seriously running now. By seriously I mean thirty-six miles a week. In other words, six miles a day, six days a week.It would be better if I ran seven days, but I have to factor in rainy days, and days when work keeps me too busy. There are some days. too, when frankly I just felt to tired to run . Taking all this into account, i leave one day a week a week as a day off. So, at thirty-six miles per week. I cover 156 miles every month, which for me s my standard for serious running

He average weeks running and his reigme is comitment six days a week.

The book follows Murakami’s journey as a runner. He used running as a way of keeping fit this was the time of aerobics and Jogging had all become big activities and he moved to Cambridge in the US and then started to put the miles in and build to long-distance running . We get little gems like when he thought he would become a writer he said he can remember the exact moment April fools day in the late seventies watching a baseball game. I think this is where I was first drawn to read his first two books long before they were republished as I read his description of writing and publishing them and then the discovery they were hard to get I ordered mine via library and they came from a US Library. One of his runs that stuck out is the one that gave the Marathon its name when he is in Greece running from Athens to Marathon the Greeks think he is made solo running in the middle in the summer in the Heat. Later another Baseball game and he is in Boston watching the red socks and doing another marathon. He connects the memories oft these runs training and the events around his life give a small glimpse into his life and his motivations

After this, while still running my Buisness, I wrote a medium length second novel, Pinball, 1973 and will working on this I wrote a few short stories and translated some sort fiction by F Scott Fitzgerald. Both Hear the wind sing and pinball, 1973 were nominated for thwe prestigous Akutagawa prize, for which they were said to be strong contenders, but in the end neither won, To tell the truth, though, I didn’t care one way of the other. If I did win it I’d become busy with interviews and writing assignments, and I was afraid this would interfere with running the club

His Jazz club days running the club and his early wriing days here

I enjoyed this second time round I am still not going to take up running but since this came out I have found my exercise thing swimming. I get how it made him feel getting fitter. I also see how the running and his running life is like his writing life is similar all about endurance and building up in a way this is visible just in the length of his books and how they grow in length. The main thing I noticed was the change in reach he talks of CDs, Md players things we don’t use and how tech has changed things like running where the is now just a playlist and we don’t just have a limit of a disc or tape. I do feel it maybe isn’t as insightful into him as a person it is more about the running and his writing than any insight into him as a person which I maybe hadn’t noticed as much the first time I read the book. The book is still a book I loved this time around which is something that always worries me about rereads I liked it a lot the first time round. I did enjoy discovering his running life again and the place he had run also the nostalgic tech made me smile. Have you read this book and even reread it since the tech in the book has moved on?

Winstons score – -A would liked a little more insight into the man but still loved it as much this time around .

 

Love in the Big city by Sang Young Park

Love in the Big city by Sang Young Park

South Korean fiction

Original title –  (대도시의 사랑법)

Translator – Anton Hur

Source – Personal copy via subscription

This was one of the last books I read at the end of last year I subscribed the last April to Tilted Axis I am looking to join other subscriptions but this was my first and as they are locally based in Sheffield it was an easy choice to pick them also the books they have brought out this year so far are ones that appealed to me as they cover a broad area of subjects and countries around Asia. This was the one that caught my eye mainly due to the cover it is the debut release in  English by the New star of Korean fiction Snag Young Park. He was born in Daegu, which is an interview I saw with him he described as a conservative city he went to Sungkyunkwan University to Study French ( the same as the Narrator of this book ) He said he felt more at home in the cosmopolitan Seoul where he now lives this is his first book to be translated to English although some of his short stories have been translated and are among the most on words without borders website.

Things moved along quickly after Jaehee announced her marriage. For the three months before the weddin, I got to witness how shitty it was for a man and a woman in Korean society to unite as One family, which made me cease resenting the fact I couldn’t even dream of marriage. Not that I was confident it wasn’t jealousy,

Meanwhile, Jaehaee had a whole lot of things she needed from me. Her promotion came with a murderous workload, and with her future husband being largely absent from the preparations, I was her stadin groom.I accompanied her to the bridal shop, to the hanbok shop, to interior design firms and so on, helping her pick things out

The end of their time together is come close.

Our narrator in this novel or interlinking story collection the book grew out of one story follows the narrator from his years as a student where he shares an apartment with his good friend Jaehee as they experience the nightlife and the men they meet one of the things I discovered is putting cigarettes in the freezer, I wonder what difference this made to the Malboro a brand I did smoke when I smoked it made me wonder what the sensation was like. I often go off on little tangents like this what we get in the first part is a student life free wild and as these things are ends this happens when the two drift apart when she meets a man. Then we see our narrator heading home and looking after his mother a devout Christian and at this time he also has a relationship with an older man. The next story follows Kyu-ho and our narrator this is his big love affair they travel to Japan as But as a past lover reveals an HIV diagnosis or as he calls it Kylie this overshadows the couples happiness and his life with Kyu-ho as it restricts travel options and ultimately has a long term effect on their relationship.

I first met Gyu-ho at what’s now a defunct gay club in Itaewon it was Chuseok and they were having an all you can drink Tequilla event. Not having a family to join for Chuseok- being a certified unnatural focused in bringing shame to the family ( not much has changed since then) and genrally stuck in poverty (yup, still)_ I could hardly afford to pass up such an opportinity. I left the foloewing mesage in out group chat:

Hey guys theres an unlimited teguilla eent at G today

See you all there.

How he meet the main romance and relationship in the book Gyu-ho one what is the equivilant of Korea thanksgiving

I don’t read a lot of LGBT books well not enough is translated into English, so it is great to see some new voices getting translated into English the beauty of the book is in Anton Hur’s translation he has given it a clarity that must be in the original version of the book, our narrator live pops of the page but it is also an insight into the LGBT world of Korea which although open in Seoul this shows that there is an undercurrent of Homophobia and what faces most modern people loneliness our Narrator is a character but at its heart, there is a man trying to find his way in the world as we all our but also dealing with his feeling with his black Humour cutting at times. This is the first of my subscription and one of the best books |I read last year I hope to see it on the Man booker list let’s hope. Have you a favourite LGBT book that has been translated? How has your new year reading started ?

Winstons score – +A simply brilliant one of the strongest narrators I have read in years.

Lemon by Kwon Yeo-Sun

Lemon by Kwon Yeo-Sun

Korean fiction

Original title – 레몬)

Translator – Janet Hong

Source – review copy

I now head to South Korea and a collection of interlinking short stories from the Korean writer Kwon Yeo-Son. She has won a number of Literary prizes in Korea and is known for her style that shows the cracks in Everyday life it says on her Korean Wiki pages with an honest and unstoppable voice. This book was initially a short story. she has published ten books and this is her first work to be translated into English. The book follows what is called “The high school Beauty murder” that happened in 2002 as the World Cup was happening in Korea it is a good way of framing the timeframe of the events as the world cup unfolding helps form a time line of the events.

I imagine what happened inside the police interrogation room so many years ago. By imagine, I don’t mean invent. But it’s not like i was actually there, so I don’t know what else to call it. I picture the scene from that day, based on what he told me and some other clues , my own experience and conclussion. It’s not just this scene I imagine. For over sixteen years. i’ve pondered, prodded and worked every detail embroiled in the case known as “THe High school Beauty Murder” – to the point I often fool myself into thinking I’d personally witnessed the circumstances now stamped on my minds eye.

The opening lines of the first chapter of the book as Han Manu is at the police station but in hidsight his view of events maybe isn’t the same as then!

The book opens with the integration of Han Manu he was on his scooter when he saw Kim Hae On and is one of the two main suspects of the killing of the teen Beauty queen. He is getting interviewed but never charged and as the threads and suspects all run cold the case is dead we then move back and forward in time as we view the three points of view that make up the collection of eight short stories. As we see what happens and has happened since the murder. It is more about the ripples from that event and the two main narrators are the sister of the victim Do- on she is stuck after her sister’s death and eventually takes steps to look like her sister more and we see that her sister boyfriend who had an Albi but maybe is more involved in the death as he was the other person apart from Manu that spent the last evening in his SUV that he was driving kim around in the evening before she was found murdered. The other narrative is kim’s classmate Sanghui now her narrative gives another angle on the events during and after the Murder.

I asked myself; Did I want to go back to that time, too? When I’d been so wld about Joyce that I’d written my poem ” Betty Byrne, maker of Lemon Platt?” if we could actually go back to that time would I ? I didn’t know . But I still remember  the first lines of that poen

Today again I burned the platt

nothing ever goes right for you, Betty Byrne

The connection to Joyce is here about Da On and Eonni chat about her poetry

The book is told in A Joycean style  well a little. As the book it isn’t about finding who killed Kim at the time.  it has dark elements also a lot about the class system in Korea. The difference in how the two suspects are viewed is the rich Shin thew boyfriend and the poor delivery boy that is suspected more even though he says Kim wouldn’t look at him. Kim was rich but it is more a look at the aftermath of the killing of High School Beauty Murder.  There is a part where James Joyce is discussed there is a stream of conciseness style I also felt it had a fragmented nature to it like little clues to what had happened and what had happened since almost like a puzzle and we the readers, we can fill the gaps as we want. It looks at the aftermath of death on a family members Murder like Suicide is such a life-changing event for those living behind it effects last forever. I enjoyed this book it is an interesting look at murder that isn’t really a crime novel in the sense of a dective novel more a series of reflections and glimpse of what happened on that night. As it says the facts and what happen to the people on that day can blur and had.

Winstons score – -A near-perfect look at the aftermath of a murder from three perspectives.

To The Warm Horizon by Choi Jin-Young

To The Warm Horizon by Choi Jin-Young

Korean fiction

Original title – 해가 지는 곳으로(

Translator – Soje

Source — review copy

I move to Korea and one of the rising stars of Korean writing Choi Jin-Young initially both a poet and fiction writer her first works appeared in the early 2000s.  Whilst working part-time in a cram school. Then when she took up writing full time she treats it as a job working office hours whilst she writin was initially in the style that was described as Kitchen table fiction. But this owes more to the writers she has said she likes in interviews which are Franz Kafka, Jeon Sungtae, and Cormac McCarthy the latter of these for me was a huge influence on this book especially his book the road. as this is another post-apocalyptic world.

I think about only pone thing: to never leave Joy behind on her own. So I must survive no matter what I must do my part as someone who’s stiull alive. This imperative is a Da sap eithout a Fine, a prayer I dedicate tomyself. As  mom died, she asked dad to look after us. As dad died, he asked me to look after joy. Like a secret key in some legend. Joy was handed down  from Mom to Dad, from Dad to me. What could I ask od Joy in my dying moment ? I love you. I Will ask her to look after love. Joywith my love handed down to her, will survive somehow. Withlove in her arms, she’ll dash towards the end of the world.

Dori and her sister she has to make sure is safe after their parents died.

What we have is a group of Koreans that are on the road to head to a place that may be in Russia that is clear of a virus that has wiped out the world around them. What we have is the story o the story is told by each character from the two younger women Dori that is with her deaf sister on the way to the warm horizon. Then Jina who is heading with what remains of her family being lead by her father the stories twist and twine overlapping as they head to what is viewed as a safer place. Then the is an older voice Ryu he fills in the background to all that has happened to lead to all the characters being on the road and how the world they lived in fell into chaos. There is also the falling in love of the two younger women among the chaos of the world they are faced with. The threads are woven together in the end with an epilogue that fills in the gaps of what happened.

Jina wore lipstick every day. ANd she was alway by my side. We slept together, and we ate together. WE scavneged through the cities rogether. What i used to never glance at, things were completely useless in these times, which wer easy ti procure because they were useless- things like makeup or a hairpin or a scar, which made Jina happiuer above all else – became jusr as important as canned food and matches .I never walked past those things anympore I started thinking about whether something would look good on jins or if it was something she would like.

Jina on the road again but trying to keep up her appearance as she heads on the road.

Well, this isn’t a book full of joy and hope no it is maybe with the way the world is a warning a virus that keeps mutating and thus making vaccines useless as we see how the population of Korea was wiped out in the hundreds of thousands a day until there is a handful of souls trying to find a place to rebuild the world. But are they even there there is a passage near the end where one character says they feel like a ghost walking in a ghost world are they? is this a book of souls trying to find peace on the warm horizon? When they hit the cathedral in what may be Russia they see what they feared the full effect of the virus on the world as it has wiped out most of the world. Yes as I said in the intro this has a nod to McCarthy’s the road and other books like Stephen Kings The Stand or even films like Mad max or tv shows like survivors which i recently rewatched there is the same sense of the empty world they see of empty buildings and nature creeping back in. A book that with what has happened since it was written 4 years ago maybe seems less sci-fi than real life !!

Winstons score – +B a slice of a post-apocalyptic world that maybe seems more like real life given recent events.

 

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

American fiction

Original title – Dove mi trovo

Translator – by the writer herself

Source – personal copy

Long before I blogged I had read the first book of short stories from Jumpa Lahiri a writer that has traveled the world from growing up in  London til; three,  then her parents emigrated to American when she was very young, her father was a librarian at the University of Rhode Island where she grew up she also spent time in India mainly in Calcutta where her family was from originally. She has lived in recent year in Rome where she has taught herself and started to write in Italian this experience she described in a non-fiction work in the New yorker Teach yourself Italian which is here. I had read her early works like Interpreter of Maladies and The namesake but hadn’t read her recent works but this appealed as it was her first book in Italian she had translated herself and it used one of the first phrases she learnt in “Italian” where is it ?

It’s hard to focius here . I feel exposed, surrounded by colleagues and students who walk down the hallways, Their movements and their chatter get on my nerves.

I try in vain to enliven the space. Every week I turn up with a shopping bag heavy with books from home to fill my shelves. That pain in my shoulder, that wieght, all that efforts amounts to little in the end. It would taketwo years, three, to fill the bookcase. It’s to capacious, it covers an entire wall. In any caser, my office is now vaguely inviting, boasting a framed print, a plant, two cushions. And yet it’s space that perplexes me, that keeps me at arm’s length.

In the office chapter we get the distance she wants from the world here.

So the book is a novel that is built from a series of very short vignettes of a woman that has no name and she is living in an unnamed city. But that means there is a universal nature to the narrator’s life and that is of a woman single in her mid 40’s a career woman but one that has apart from her work no real friends or real family so what we get is glimpses of this life from the mundane everyday events shopping, buying a book, watching people like the locals in the shop which could be a shop anywhere really. few highlights nights away in a friend’s empty house but no friend a visit to the sea a visit to parents all have the sense of a woman that has tried to make herself vanish from the world a silent observer of all that is around her.  What builds is a life lived on the edges how often will we pass a narrator like this a smart dressed middle-aged woman that has on the outside a career and a few friends or maybe people she has worked with struck slim bonds with but no real touchstones this is a tale of the aged that avoids the rabbit hole of tech in her life and paints a solitary as would have been called years ago of a modern spinster !!

In Spring

In spring I suffer. The season doesn’t invigorate me, I find it depleting, The new light disorients , the fulmating nature overwhelms, and the air, dense with pollen, bothers my eyes. To calm my allergies I take a pill in the morning that makes me sleepy. It knocks me out, I can’t focus, and by lunchtime I’m tired enough to go to bed. I sweat all day and at night I’m freezing no shoe seems the right temperamental time of year.

Every blow in my lifetook place in spring. Each lasting sting, That’s why I’m afflicted by the green of the trees, the first peaches in the market, the light flowing skirts that the women in my neighbourhood start to wear.

Her life in spring also reflects a sense of a life full of loss.

Now there is a difference from her ealry works which largely look at India and being Indian in America but there is a loss of identity of the narrator of her story that also widens the story as it makes it a universal this could be Rome,London,New York or Kolkatta or any large town or city there are hiundreds of woman like the narrator of this book that have drift out of the personal to merely live and observe there world live but on the surface never getting that attatchment from emmotions I loved the voice and the simple mundane world we had glimpses behind the curtain at the change of languange has maybe freed her as a writer to persuae a new style a different way of thinking having liuved in Germany for a couple of years and learning German as it was just by being there and immersed in the world I view the world a different way and this I feel in the way Jhumpa has approached this book she joins the cannon of great writers like conrad, Nabhakov, Achibe and Beckett the last name is maybe one I thought of another writer that had a detactched nature to his narrators like the unnamed woman in this story waiting for her life !! Have you read this book ?

Winstons score – -A would loved another 100 paes of this  but a great evening read !

I Live in the Slums by Can Xue

I Live in the Slums by Can Xue

Chinese fiction

Original title – the stories were published in various publications and collected here.

Translators Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping

Source – personal copy

Well, this is the second book from Can Xue or as she is known Deng Xiaohua. I have read the first was the longlisted love in the new millennium which was longlisted for the Booker I read it but wasn’t a huge fan of it I have struggled with Chinese fiction over the years but was willing to try as this was a collection of short stories and  I remember reading at the time I read her novel that it was her medium as she had written over a 120 short stories over the years. Known for her Avant-garde and abstract style of writing. She had worked as a metal worker and then with her husband started a tailoring business before she wrote more she took the pen name Can Xue early on in her career.

The Old man sat up in bed, about to bandage his heel with a rag. He had prepared the rags earlier for this purpose. He made a lot of noise tearing up the cloth. He seemed top be strong, He kept wrapping his foot until it was encased in one large package. The pig squealed more and mpore incositently. they were on the verge of leaping out of the pen. He got out of bed and stepped on the floor without putting a shoe on his injured foot. He went outside to feed the pigs. What was this all about? Whu did he let the house mouse bite his heel ? Was therre a tumor there and he was letting the house mouse perform surgery? What admirable willpower ?

The foot getting nibble and the old man then wakes

I Live in the slums is a collection of 15 stories with the longer story the story of the slums being more of a novella than a short story. As with the story of the slums, the main story is a dark tale of the Chinese underclass our narrator opens with a bone of an old man being eaten a dead man I thought but no he then wakes this is the view of the underclass and later the story goes full circle as the same thing happens to the narrator with his foot being eaten and nibbled by a mouse. The stories view the poor lost voices of Modern China from the urban sprawl to the countryside. It captures that journey of many young chinese from the country to the town.  Almost what I felt is this is the reverse of the American dream as the characters are poor in the country but also those left behind those elders struggling. Then the nightmare of the city is captured catfish pool which shws the urban sprawl destroying the places. The stories are all avant garde and sometimes make the reader struggle but also make the stories hard to describe they are more absorb by the reader.

THe slums were my home, and also the hardest place for me to understand. Genrally speaking, I didn’t make a deliberate effort to understand it. Destiny drove me from one place to anpther. I’d been underground, I’d been to the city, and \i’d lived in all kinds of homes in the slums. There was often crises in my life; the threat of death was ongoing, but I was still alive. Could this be because my ancestors were living in the depths of memory and protecting me? Oh – that boundless pasture, that eagle disappearing into the vast qi, those kin who lay on their stomachsin the underbrush! Thinking of them, I felt I knew everything and was capable of anything. But this was in my memory. The reality was absolutely different. In reality, I knew almost noting, through I had experienced so much.

Near the end of the novella the story of the slums the narrator talks of his life in the slums.

I enjoyed this collection more than I had her Novel I was reminded at times of Herta Mullers writing there is a similar richness to her writing style. also a similar abstract sty;le that takes tiome to absorb as a read this is rich in images and is more about atomspehre setting and events than narrative. The stories have lots of little nods to what is wrong in china the underclasses Building come and go the sort of chaos that follows the unending urban sprawl that has eaten the countryside and spilt people from where they were. The main novella is very dark and has a feel of Kafka an unnamed narrator a downward spiral of life. I will be trying more books from Can Xue whch is a change as before this collection I wouldn’t have picked her up. But I know feel her style is more suit to the short form. Have you read Can Xue ? where next ?

WInstons Score = B  It grew on me.

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Japanese fiction

Original title – Chikyu Seijin

Translator – Ginny Tapley Takemori

Source – personal copy

I got this book last week for my birthday i had given Amanda a list of books that I thought maybe on Tuesday’s booker longlist and this was one of two Japanese novels this was one the other was Breast and Eggs which if it is on the list Tuesday i will get otherwise it will be a while before I get to that one anyway back to this the second book by Sayaka Muruta to be translated into English the first Convenience store women was a hit and one of those books I didn’t read due to the hype but this had been on my radar mainly because I loved the cover art which in fact relates to the book. Sayaka Murata grew up reading sci-fi and mystery novels from her family see even started to write a novel when she was 14. Finally publishing a novel when she was 24 she has published 11 books so far winning one of Japan’s biggest book prizes Akutagawa prize for her book convenience store women. Her books deal with Family, sex, celibacy, asexual relationships, and sci-fi elements.

I took Piyyut out of my bag. He loked like a white hedgehog plush toy, but actually he was an emissary sent by the magic police on Planet Popinpobopia. Piyyut had given me the magic wand and mirror to help meuse my maigical powers, I explained.

“Wow, Natuski, thats amazing” YUu said, his face serious. “It’s thank to you protecting the earth that we’re living in peace”

“Right”

“HEy. What sort of place is that Planet Popinpo- What’s it called again?”

“Popinpobopia. I don’t know really. Piyyut said it was secret.

“OH”

She is given magic powers to help save the earth by the plush to that is an emissary from another planet.

The novel is told from the point of view Natsuki she grows up spending her summers with her family in the remote mountains with their grandparents in the WIld Nagano Mountains and also there is her Family her Aunt and Uncle and her cousin Yuu. it is during these summers she buys what Piyyut which she thinks at the time is a white hedgehog toy but he is really an alien from the planet Popinpobia to give Natuski magic powers to save the earthlings. What follows is an account of her youth which has two events that shape her future and that of her family the first is abuse from a teacher that sexual abuses her and the other is a sexual awakening alongside her cousin Yuuwhich they are caught meaning the family unit is split and they stop talking to the aunt and Uncle. So when many years later when she is trapped in the city she describes it as a baby-producing factory and she is stuck in a sexless marriage. As she is driven to go back to the mountains this leads to a reunion with her cousin and also the secrets of her youth breaking through the loss of family she missed the after ripples of the kissing and sex with her cousin in her youth. This leads to a shocking end to the journey through the book.

I once asked my husband why he’d registered at Surinuke dot.cpm. “I thought it was written into our contract not to pry into that”, he said, clearly uncomfortable.

“I’m sorry, that was out of order. I didn’t mean to infringe on our contract>”

“No it’s okay. I feel suprisinglu relaxed talking with you. Natsuki.”

It wasn’t that my husband had no interest in sex. Instead he thought it wasn’t something to do rather something to observe. He enjoyed watching, but he was apparantly disgusted by the notion of touching and being touched by someone else who was discharging fluid. Another problem my husband had was that he hated working. This was obvious in his behacviour at work, so he found it hard to hold a job down.

Her advert and contract husband isn’t all she had hoped for at times.

I am not a huge sci-fi fan as you may know but this uses the sci-fi to drive the narrative and also to point things out. This is studio Ghibli if they let the writers from Law and order special victims unit had written it this uses the sci-fi element as a sugar coating to the horrors of sexual abuse from a teacher which then leads her fumblings with Yuu which then leads to suicide and a family break up these events then lead to her marriage and the events at the end of the book. Murata manages to tackle the subjects subtle and with a uniquely Japanese take on events Piyyut is like a Pokmon character manga creation, then things like advertising for her husband in a very Japanese way the loneliness of the city, and being friendless as a teen the knock-on effect of abuse is seen. A powerful work Natsuki is the flip of those lonely males of Murakami’s novels a female perspective on modern Japanese life. Have you read this book or her first book ?

Winstons score  -A an unusual book

Tower by Bae Myung-Hoon

Tower by Bae Myung-Hoon

Korean fiction

Original title – 타워

Translator – Sung Ryu

Source – review copy

I move to Asia today and a novel that is maybe a bit different to the usual ones I read as it is a sci-fi work well more a dystopia novel. Bae Myung- Hoon studied internatrional relations befroe winning a sci-fi short story competion in 2005 he blurs the lines between liteary fiction and genre fiction in his works. This book is his breakthrough work and won both prize for liteary works and sci fi as well. It has been described Social science fiction for the way it uses satire and a futurstic setting to comment on the problems in the present. He has said it is easier to tackle social issues usiong a sci fi setting.

Some liquors serve as currency. In life, there are times when one must give something to someone with no guarntee of getting anything in return. This is different from giving bribes, kickbacks and payoffs, or sweetners, in which case what to give is fairly straight forward and what to get in exchange is crystal clear. But in payment for service relationship that involved far more delicate and sensitive mechanisms like offerning a “token of gratutude” or a “little something,” what that subtle gift might be and what is expected in return afre not specified explicitly. this is how power usually works, eexcept in emergencies.

The curency of the tower whiskey swapping hands not a bribe as such but.

The tower is set in a 624 skyscraper called the beanstalk in the interconnectiong stories  of the world that is the Beanstalk. Firstly, we meet Professor Jung Of the beanstalk power research. He is looking into the pratice of giving expensive whiskey.So he looks into the circulation of the expensive whiskey around the Beanstalk to dear to buy and drink. It is  more used as gifts  almost a currency in itself for future deeds from folks as the tracks down the circulation of the bottles he ends up finding the heart of this situation is a dog in a room.  that is getting lots of gifts sent too. Then we meet Writer K (an obvious nod to Kafka) who has terraphobia a fear of being on the ground and has lived in the beanstalk for years after events in his younger years. But folks start to wonder when he starts writing about nature due to some  as he previous works had been based around the beanstalk. coming up with titles like the dog and the elevator a nod to the first story. Then we have an elephant being used as crowd control by a man that has just come to the Beanstalk. A pilot is saved as he is shot sown and being on the run. Thre is also an appendix which links into events in the stories like an extract of writer K work another work or a woman that had written a work just on one floor and the comings and going.

excerpt from ” The Bear God’s Afternoon by Writer K

once it rose, the sun was in no hurry to set. One day lasted one year in the Bear God’s realm, which remained buried in snow all year long, “The Bear Godwas the evil ruler of night. As the long, long night wore on for half a year, the Bear God’ would show the,self fleetingly admist the infinte emptiness and darkness pouring in from the far side of the univers. The Bear god brought a cold blizzasd with them wnerever they went. When bitter winds, rasping like the futile breath of the grim reaper, those the eatrs and reached the heart, all good bears had to retreat into their caves for a seemingly eternal slumber.

From the appendix an excerpt fro writer K work

I really got into the world of the beanstalk althogh not a sci fi reader I do like some dystopic ficion and some great sci films. This is in the vein of writers like Orwell , kafka and maybe a chunk of sci fi writers like China Mieville anpther modern writer that seems to blur genre lines in his works. The beanstalk itself could be an ancestor of the great sci fi story universe from Robert Heinlein set on a huge abandon ship that has become the inhabitations universe like the world of the beanstalk it has its divides. The book is a commmentary on issues with sounth korea things like corrupition , social issues and the state itself the divide nation. He creates a world of the tower the floors the half a million people living there therte is also a hunour like in the first story that remind me of something Douglas adams would come up with the dog at the heart opf it all remind me of the deep thought and the answer 42. The second story of writer K is an obvious nod to Franz Kafka characters. This is a clever collection of interconnection stories bits from other stories crop up in other stories. As I said at the start it wouldn’t be a book I would pick myself but it is one I would now recomend.this has just come out from Honford star. Also this is one ofmy favourite covers this year so far

 

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