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

 

Winston’s books A nobel and a night film some new books

I had a few appealing books arrive this last couple of days from some well known writers and also a bargain find. I collected a number of parcels from post office and found –

death by water by kenzaburo Oe

A new book from a Nobel Laurate is always a welcome book to read and I have only reviewed on other book by Kenzaboro Oe on the blog A personnel matter a story inspired by his son. This seems inspired by his father and a case of writers block it follows Kogito Choko a nobel winning writer struggling to write about his late father with whom he had a trouble relationship that was never resolved before he drown. So a red chest from his sister full of his fathers possessions maybe hold the secrets from the past.

for two thousands years by Mihail Sebastian

The second arrival is a classic from Romania Mihail Sebastian was a prominent figure in literary circles in the Romania in the early 1930’s. This autobiographical novel follows him as Facist takeover and deep rooted Anti semitism starts to take hold. The quote on the cover is Arthur Miller who compares his writing to Chekov.

same old story by Ivan Goncharov

I read Goncharov masterpiece Oblomov years and years ago so when Alma said they had a translation of his first novel The same old story a tale of alexander a poet who moves from the country to the city. He sees his ideal of life in the city changed as he struggles with the ruthless world of the city.

night film by Marisha Pessel

Now last is one of those bargain books we all find. I am a cfan of pound shops we always visit the one in town mainly for some lotus biscuits, but there is always something to find that is a bargain and I can’t help shifting through books most time I know it is going be a lot of books I don’t want but once in a blue moon a gem turns up and this is one such book it came out two years ago and is a novel about a horror director that hasn’t been seen in public for ear then his daughter dies and this gives a chance to a Journalist McGarth that has want to expose the director Cordova for a number of years but has lost a lot in this journey. The book also has an app to unlock interactive feature although I need use my old iphone to use it.

What books have you had arrive recently ?

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 ?

 

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