|Title - Author
This is my favourite novel of all time - you can understand why I chose to feature it first. It regards the life and times of Oba Yuzu, a complex and intricate person describing the annals of his life through a series of found diaries. Aside from the prologue and epilogue, all of the book regards Oba's narration of his life, from his childhood to his adult years, and. . .
I've always loved the last line in particular. Though Oba is in no way stellar, I felt for him quite deeply and almost loved him. Throughout the book, regardless of his careless and insecure choices, his way of lying through life, I only wished him happiness. I really wanted him to be happy, though it seems as if some people aren't meant for that. He paved this road himself. The way his anxiety is described, when he feels as if his lies will catch up to him, this apathetic acceptance, the absence of despair due to emotionlessness... a useless life, whose only purpose becomes self-indulgence, as a result of the realisation of the vanity and mindlessness of life... If only. . .
This book is distinctly buraiha - decadent, a genre prevalent after the Second World War, as a reaction to it, describing the uselessness of daily life, the fleeting and nihilistic nature of things; as well as an I-novel, a book narrated in first person. I've always found it more immediate than traditional narration... perhaps you may find some enjoyment in this cute little peculiarity of its writing.
One passage in particular regards a district attorney. I do not wish to spoil it for you, but it was my favourite moment in the book.
|No Longer Human; by Osamu Dazai
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - the first book, at least - might just be one of my favourite children's book of all time, mostly because it's a fun read for everybody, regardless of age. Surreal imagery mixed with self-awareness, social commentary, and - believe it or not - vague mathematical references (Carroll was a mathematician by profession) is the essential absurdist recipe for a nice novel.
I ate this up in one evening. It made me feel like I was Alice, strutting through Wonderland. The theme of ever-changing social etiquette mocks the stiff mannerisms prevalent in the moralistically driven Victorian era. Lewis Carroll (real name Lewis Dodgson; he could not pronounce it because of his lisp - the Dodo might be his author-insert in the story) pokes fun at authority figures for their single-minded pursuit of propriety, and eschews the age-old social induction through means of shame. Obviously, his heart goes out to children, expected to adhere to rules they do not understand, much less have learned...
Endlessly popular book, for good reason. Carroll was himself quite interesting; He thought adults to be boring, and spent endless days composing poetry and stories for children. A favourite character of mine is the Cheshire Cat; Perhaps he should be seen as one of the few - if only - characters that ever help Alice; Though seemingly 'mad' and uncaring, he is of pleasant disposition and does not wish harm to Alice, while recognizing her status as an outsider. A worthy read.
|Alice's Adventures In Wonderland; by Lewis Carroll
Perhaps the only thing you need to know about me is that I love Akutagawa.
Here's a collection of his most well-known stories, including Yabu no Yaka - In A Grove - which studies the theme of human nature, and how it is impossible for any mortal being to reach the objective truth of any sort of matter. If you cross examine this story, and sort your way through the testimonies, you'll find not only inconsistencies, but consistencies also, which makes reading all that harder. Testimonies negate, nullify, yet also complete and validate each other; It is your job to examine these contradictions and find your own truth. Yabu no Yaka has also been turned into a movie, whose title is taken from another Akutagawa story - Rashomon, directed by Akira Kurosawa. The story is so popular that the phrase '(somebody is) in a grove' in Japanese means that one is found in a confusing situation.
Other stories I recommend from this collection are The Spider's Thread, a tale of karma - Akutagawa was deeply interested in religion, especially Catholicism, though this tale more or less encompasses Buddhism - Hell Screen, in which an old man is tasked to paint a picture of hell - original title Jigoku Hen; My favourite story of his, if only for the image of 'hell's' inspiration, which is truly harrowing - and of course The Nose, the story which brought him to light, and its... unorthodox ending.
Akutagawa: timeless insomniac, self-perceived sinner, with a left-over grudge to the whole of the female species; Japan's father of the short story, immensely talented and widely loved. His world is dark, unjust, and terribly realistic - at least through his own eyes. Discover more about Akutagawa on my Japanese Literature page.
|Rashomon And 17 Other Stories; by Ryuunosuke Akutagawa
I went through a lot of troube to get this for you - I had to dig into the depths of my old pdfs from a 2008 Dell, wait ten minutes for it to boot, have it die on me three times, and connect my email to this hellish hardware so I could send it over to my laptop. You should be thanking me.
... Yet, perhaps this is no time for trivialities. This was my introduction to Murakami; I first read a part of this collection text-pasted into some dying Vietnamese original-fiction website. The user claimed that this story - Mirror - was their own, and I, in disbelief, searched some of the lines up, and found out that it's actually a short story collection by Murakami. Serendipitous, one might say.
No matter. Reading this, perhaps one understands why the Japanese literary establishment does not much tolerate Murakami - I say this in the good way, of course. His style is almost western. Distinct unemotionality and surrealism cater to the modern reader - Murakami has a taste for the cynically absurd. His stories - as well as his books - mingle the surreal, the symbolic, the literary, to the sexual, the every-day, the real real. His talent pertaining to writing casual, faceless conversations, while hiding subtext between their uniform words and commonly used phrases has a distinct flavour.
Mirror - Kagami - is an obvious favourite, if not only for its atmoshperic ambience, and its first-person narration that so characterises Murakami's works - most of them, at least. I have described it to many as one of my favourite short stories of all time - its humour, its eerieness, the description of sound is especially lively. Tony Takitani is another one that I recommend; I did not find it slow at all, though some of you might. It is filled with endless characterisation, paired with a more-than-funky tone, as is suited to jazz, one might say. Tony's personality juxtraposed to the one of his father's is a real joy to read through, and clever foreshadowing will follow any reader along the story. Takitani's wife's arc is intersting to go through, and more entertaining than anything else; I related with her. You may find it sweet to watch its film adaptation, too. The Ice Man made me smile like an idiot the first time I read it, at least the first few pages; I could see the main character and the Ice Man interact clearly, while the Ice Man's description was spot on for someone like him. The ending falls straight into Murakami's absurdity. The Year of Spaghetti made an immediate impression on me when I first read it... while it inherits Haruki Murakami's strangeness, its main character's thoughts were justly and impeccably described; I could sense that phonecall down to the characters' inflections.
You may finish this in a weekend, or a week, or a month. It is lovely to dip into.
|Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami
Natsume Soseki is considered Japan's greatest novelist in Modern history; so much so that, for a while, he was featured on the Japanese Yen.
If there is anything I loved about Kokoro - the most widely read and bought novel in all of Japanese history - it is its running theme of isolation, not only from the world, but from the self, too. Sensei - "teacher" - does not only feel dissociated from the emotions and feelings of others but also from hismelf; a sentiment of repeated in the story is his inability to trust people, due to his insecurity borne from an event described earlier in the book, while K isolates himself to the point of absolute loneliness - only to break free from his self-imposed shell; still, he comes to lose it all again.
There is nothing more interesting than Sensei's lies, and more than these lies, his cowardice - his inability not only to confront others, yet also himself. He fears that the girl he likes prefers K more, yet does nothing about it; and wins her love through means less than noble, not to her, but rather K, whom he leaves in the dark.
It only seems practical that I would love this one. The result of all conflict comes through only because of alienation and dissapointment. It is no wonder that this book is so widely loved.
|Kokoro by Natsume Soseki
|Laughing Bacchus Winecellars
|Magazzini Alimentari Riuniti
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