[NOVEL] NORWEGIAN WOOD – HARUKA MURAKAMI

Summary: Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before.  Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable.  As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman Midori.

“What happens when people open their hearts?”
“They get better.”

11297Since Norwegian Wood is so popular, this is by no means a review, but just some thoughts on the novel. When I read this novel a year ago, my thought was basically: “What kind of story is this?” “Is this love or sex?” “Why can’t everyone in the book just make up their minds already?” Maybe it has too many layers of meanings that I couldn’t decipher? I decided, then, that Murakami was not the author for me. But people grow up, and so am I. When I read it again for one of my classes this spring, I realized that it’s not the multilayers of meanings that make the book popular. It is the power to touch people’s hearts.  Read More »

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[NOVEL] THE WOMAN IN THE DUNES – KOBO ABE

Summary: After missing the last bus home following a day trip to the seashore, an amateur entomologist is offered lodging for the night at the bottom of a vast sand pit. But when he attempts to leave the next morning, he quickly discovers that the locals have other plans. Held captive with seemingly no chance of escape, he is tasked with shoveling back the ever-advancing sand dunes that threaten to destroy the village. His only companion is an odd young woman. Together their fates become intertwined as they work side by side at this Sisyphean task.

“Being free always involves being lonely.”

Many people said that this novel gives you a really “claustrophobic” atmosphere, with all the sand surrounding the main character. And it feels like the sand will eventually collapse on you. Admittedly, I feel the same. But don’t be discouraged! The Woman in the Dunes is an amazingly unique and intriguing novel I’ve read, since it leaves room for so many discussions and interpretations of its metaphors and images! A successful movie adaptation was made in 1964 by Hiroshi Teshigahara, and you can find the trailer here.
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[NOVEL] KOKORO – NATSUME SOSEKI

Summary: Kokoro—meaning “heart”—is the story of a subtle and poignant friendship between two unnamed characters, a young man Watashi (“I” in Japanese) and an enigmatic elder whom he calls “Sensei.” Haunted by tragic secrets that have cast a long shadow over his life, Sensei slowly opens up to his young disciple, confessing indiscretions from his own student days that have left him reeling with guilt, and revealing, in the seemingly unbridgeable chasm between his moral anguish and his student’s struggle to understand it, the profound cultural shift from one generation to the next that characterized Japan in the early twentieth century.

“You see, loneliness is the price we have to pay for being born in this modern age, so full of freedom, independence, and our own egoistical selves.”

I’m a little bit reluctant to call this a review or recommendation because Kokoro is one of the most famous work in modern Japanese literature. It’s like the American’s “To kill a mockingbird.” Still, I’m deeply impressed and movedby Kokoro, kokoroand I’d love to share my opinions! The novel has a film adaptation in 1955 and a less faithful anime adaptation in 2009 (episode 7 -8 in Aoi Bungaku). 

Historical context

I think a little historical background is crucial for this novel. Soseki is considered one of the major author of the 20th century, who is a pioneer in a Western-styled literature. He lives around the time of the Meiji period, which was marked an influx of Western influences including industrialization and culture values. The cultural and economic revolution in the Meiji era marked the beginning of modernization. Kokoro was published two years after the Meiji Emperor has died.Read More »

[MANGA] DENSHA OTOKO – HITORI NAKANO

Summary: A nerdy otaku saved a beautiful girl on a train, and later that night posted an urgent query on the Internet forum called 2channel – How the heck does he talk to girls? What should he wear on their date? Where should they go? He was nicknamed Densha Otoko (Train Man) and the girl as Hermes on the Internet. The forum’s response was overwhelming, and the thread continued to grow along with their relationship.

Time and money can take care of stuff like studying English and going abroad, but travel agencies don’t sell tickets bound for Hermes’ house.

  • Full name: Densha Otoko – Net Hatsu, Kakueki Teisha no Love Story
  • Author: Hitori Nakano; Illustrator: Hara Hidenori
  • Genre: Comedy, Romance, Seinen
  • Chapters: 27
  • Status: completed

I finally decide to take a break from overdosing myself on Higashino-sensei’s detective novels, and do my first Manga review! I just finished reading Densha Otoko 2 hours ago. It was a total train of emotions. And if you ever feel like you need to believe in love again, this is totally the one. It was originally a real-life forum thread that got so popular that it was later published as a book, adapted into a movie (trailer here), a TV series and eventually this manga.

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[NOVEL] BLUE MOSHIKUWA BLUE – FUMIO YAMAMOTO

Summary: Souko at the age of 23 decided to get married with the amiable and liberal Sasaki who works for an advertising company, instead of the hard-working and loyal cook Kawami. Years later, Sasaki Souko meets her other self: Kawami Souko, the life that she gave up when she was young, is arm in arm with her former lover Kawami. Longing for a change, the two exchange lives for one month. In the search for new experience and meaning of life, Sasaki Souko has greatly disrupted the balance of her fate…

Her mouth tastes unpleasantly acrid and bitter. It is the taste of freedom she ever wished for.

blue

One small thing to note is that all of the quotes here are my own translation because I don’t think this book has an English version yet (what a pity). They also made a drama adaption for the book in 2003. Blue Moshikuwa Blue is a perfect fun read for a lazy Sunday morning.

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[LIGHT NOVEL SERIES] BUNGAKU SHOUJO – NOMURA MIZUKI

Summary: Bungaku Shoujo series centers around Konoha Inoue, one of two members of his high school’s literature club, which he joined shortly after entering school, though the story begins when Konoha is already in his second year. The other member and president of the club is Tohko Amano, a third-year girl who loves literature. Tohko eats stories by consuming the paper they are printed on, and Tohko often asks Konoha to write her short stories as “snacks”.

“Why are you eating the parts that I balled up and threw away?”

Hinosaka.Nano.full.1238261This series of light novels got so popular that they have manga and anime adaptation, and art book. But the very first time I read them, I thought they were a little too much. The language was a little exaggerated, and the characters were unreal. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t expect everything to be real. In fact, I love unreal. I love mangas and books with mind games, strategy games, fighting scenes, exaggerated love story, etc. However, I wouldn’t expect such dramatic adventures from a series that starts with a two-member high school literature club. What makes Bungaku Shoujo worth reading, rather than real, is the ability to create to characters that any reader can resonate with.Read More »

[NOVEL] TOKYO FIANCÉE – AMÉLIE NOTHOMB

Summary: Amélie is a young language teacher living in Tokyo. When she succumbs to the attentions of her one and only student – the shy, wealthy, *may I also add “handsome”* and oh-so-Japanese Rinri – the lovers-to-be find themselves swept along by an affair that is as unusual as it is tender.

Why must pleasure always have a price? And why must one always pay for sensual delight with the loss of original lightness?

Just a personal note that this book is my favorite. Don’t know why I wait until now to write this. Also the book just has its movie adaption! Yayyy !! But I haven’t been able to watch it *cry*

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