Written in fable style, Silk tells a story of a silk merchant in southern France who is appointed by people in his vilage to make a long voyage to Japan in search of good quality of silkworms, as there’s an epidemic that ruins the regular supply of silkworms in their neighbourhood countries.
And so begins his long journey — which is comically told in a couple of paragraphs, back and forth every year from France to Japan. With every trip he gets a little more glimpse of a young woman that he meets in Japan — a concubine of the warlord he makes the business deal with. Meanwhile he has a wife who is ever so loyal waiting for him at home.
Without giving anything away, I bet you could already sense that where ever it’s going it’s not going to somewhere pretty.
Silk is a short and sweet novella with a tinge of sadness. It is a story about unhappiness in everyone of us, no matter what we already have.
It’s satisfying read for such a short book.
1996 (Italian), 1997 (English), 91 pp
Read for: Lost in Translation Challenge (book #3), Orbis Terrarum Challenge 2009 (book #9), (Another) 1% Well-Read Challenge (book #5), 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die Challenge, Reading the World
Being the book-to-movie buff that I am, I couldn’t wait to check out the movie almost straight away.
The biggest difference with the book is that the girl in Japan is not a white girl as in the book, though she’s said to be Chinese in the movie, not Japanese too (in real life she is Japanese). I don’t know why this was made so, but I guess a Japanese chick in the poster and trailer would be a much better attraction (because then it’d be white chick vs Japanese chick kind of movie).
Positive points: gorgeous setting, pretty girls (I’m always fond of Keira Knightley and the Japanese girl was gorgeous).
Negative points: Michael Pitt as Hervé Joncour didn’t work well (who is he anyway? never heard of him before), the hairstyle of the Japanese girls looks very modern which didn’t go well with the 1800s setting.
The colorful birds that Hara Jubei (the Japanese warlord) is supposed to keep in his backyard was not portrayed in the movie. I guess that would cost quite a bit to do. But what a shame. It would have been a stunning shot. I remember the colorful birds clearly from the book because I thought it was a great symbol of the Japanese girl role as his concubine, his pet.
Somehow the story felt a bit more unsatisfactory by watching the film, even though it stays true to the book. The tale became the old obsession-with-what-you-can’t-have and it left me and hubby somewhat discontent.