30 July 2009 – 30 January 2010
Bellezza is hosting the third Japanese Literature Challenge! How exciting! Yes of course, I’m joining! Japanese literature always has a special place in my heart, as I grew up with all things Japanese throughout my childhood and teenagehood years (from manga to anime to merchandise), though only in my adult years I started to explore the world of Japanese novels.
You could check out my reviews of Japanese books (by Japanese or set in Japan) on my Reading the World page, but I would like to list a few books that are worth the special mention: (In Twitter spirit, I’m going to summarize each book in less than 140 characters. What a quick pacing world we’re living! I admit, you need a special skill to tell people about anything in 140 characters.)
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
44 ninth-grade students taken to a small island, each left with a unique survival item, forced to kill each other until one winner remains. [full review]
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
A young guy killed himself. His best friend and his girlfriend remain, trying to find the meaning of it all. Melancholy tale of Jap youths. [full review]
The Key by Junichiro Tanizaki
A 55 yo man in lust with his 11-years-younger wife. Each keeps a ‘hidden’ diary knowing the other would secretly read it. [full review]
Out by Natsuo Kirino
Four women meet as coworkers at bento factory. One of them killed her husband. The others are dragged into hiding his body and her secret. [full review]
You’ve probably heard of Norwegian Wood and Out. However I feel that the other two are getting much less recognition than they deserve!
As Bellezza made the rule of this year quite easy: Read one work of Japanese origin, I have no doubt that I’ll be able to finish this challenge in time. Woohoo! A challenge with not much pressure is what I need, as I didn’t do so well for my Japanese Literature Challenge 2 (we had to read three – which I did, sort of, but with difficulties).
I’ve decided to include not only books by Japanese authors, but also books about Japan or set in Japan. And I have exactly one book that’s on its way to finish line which I will post the review hopefully next week. So stay tune!
I have a few books in mind that I would really love to read for this round of challenge, but it would be a bit tricky to get them since I’ve moved back to Australia. Back when I was in Singapore, Japanese books were so easy to get from their super awesome library (I had yet to find a book — any book — that they didn’t have!) Japanese books were in abundance, in libraries, bookstores — new or secondhand. Not so here.
As much as I love Haruki Murakami, I’d like to explore other authors this time. The big names that come to mind are Natsume Soseki and Shusaku Endo, since I’ve tried Yasunari Kawabata and Junichiro Tanizaki. But there are a few newcomers too that I’d love to try.
Books I’m thinking to read: (if I can read one or two from this list I’d be happy)
I am a Cat or Kokoro by Natsume Soseki
Snakes and Earrings or Autofiction by Hitomi Kanehara
Geisha of Gion by Mineko Iwasaki (I hava wanted to read this since Memoirs of a Geisha)
Strangers by Taichi Yamada
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
Silence by Shusaku Endo
Apparently Snakes and Earrings won Akutagawa prize (supposedly top Japanese literary award) and was highly praised by Ryu Murakami who was one of the judges. I had seen Snakes and Earrings a couple of years ago when it was out and it sounded interesting. Hitomi Kanehara is coming to Melbourne Writers Festival (21-30 Aug 2009) and I just saw a picture of her.
How cute is she?! She looks more like a Japanese singer/actress!
I’m gonna keep track of the books I read here.
Update 13 Aug ’09
As Bellezza has clarified that what she meant by work of Japanese origin is book written by Japanese author, I will make a different list for them here. So even if it doesn’t count for the challenge, it’s still fun to have all Japan related books for the duration of the challenge!
Books of Japanese origin:
- Snakes and Earrings by Hitomi Kanehara (finished 08/09, )
- Strangers by Taichi Yamada (finished 09/09, )
- I Am a Cat (Vol 1) by Soseki Natsume (finished 12/09, )
- Oishinbo: Ramen & Gyoza by Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki (finished 01/10, )
Books about/set in Japan by non-Japanese authors:
- Squeamish about Sushi by Betty Reynolds (finished 08/09, )
- Kabuki: The Metamorphosis by David Mack (finished 08/09, )
- Clueless in Tokyo by Betty Reynolds (finished 10/09, )