The Japanese Literature Challenge!

Oh I am a sucker for a reading challenge!

In my defense, I do always try to take part in Meredith’s Japanese Literature Challenge as it requires nothing more than reading books by Japanese writers!

As in years past, the challenge runs from 1 January to 31 March. You can read books in translation (unless you are able to read Japanese), and review them on your blog. You can also leave thoughts on social media using the hashtag #JapaneseLitChallenge14.

There is a dedicated review site to leave links, as with previous years, and it can also be a great source of inspiration, or temptation, depending on how you want to look at it.

This year there is also a group read of Breasts and Eggs, by Mieko Kawakami who has been “hailed by Haruki Murakami as Japan’s most important contemporary novelist.”

I won’t be taking part in the group read but I’ve had a look through my shelves and have found a couple of options that I wouldn’t mind reading over the coming months.

After Dark by Haruki Murakami, translated by Jay Rubin

I’ve only read one other Murakami – Norwegian Wood – which I really enjoyed. I was probably tempted by this one because I love a story set over one day, and this tale of two sisters drawn into a web of intrigue over one night sounds particularly interesting.

Asleep by Banana Yoshimoto, translated by Michael Emmerich

Again, I’ve read just The Lake by Yoshimoto and loved its dreamlike atmosphere. Asleep features three linked novellas, about three women, all bewitched into a spiritual sleep. One, mourning a lost lover, finds herself sleepwalking at night. Another, who has embarked on a relationship with a man whose wife is in a coma, finds herself suddenly unable to stay awake. A third finds her sleep haunted by another woman whom she was once pitted against in a love triangle.

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Sōji Shimada, translated by Ross and Shika MacKenzie

I was lucky enough to win a copy of this last year through Pushkin Press and it sounds like a fantastic thriller. The Tokyo Zodiac Murders is a locked room mystery, where unpredictable detective Kiyoshi Mitarai must in one week solve a mystery that has baffled Japan for 40 years. Who murdered the artist Umezawa, killed his daughter, and then chopped up the bodies of six other women? And to what end? Shimada has been dubbed the ‘God of Mystery’ and I think this sounds highly enjoyable.

The Box Man by Kobo Abe, translated by E. Dale Saunders

I do love a touch of surrealism in my reading, and The Box Man sounds like it won’t disappoint. Here, a nameless protagonist gives up his identity and the trappings of a normal life to live in a large cardboard box he wears over his head on the streets of Tokyo. This sounds very Kafka-esque and right up my street!

So, those are my options for the Japanese Literature Challenge. Have you read any of them and would you recommend? Are you planning to take part in this celebration of Japanese Literature?

Reading Challenge

Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

25 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I read After Dark in university and clearly remember many elements but only vaguely remember the plot. As with many other Murakami novels, it does have its surrealism and cool characters. It’s also a quick read!

    Asleep was turned into a film with Sakura Ando, who you saw in Shoplifters. I hope to review that soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve read only two Murakami – both highly enjoyable – but haven’t dared to try his more ‘magical realism/surrealism’ output. The book you have in your collection sounds more to my taste.

    I’m joining in with a very light touch though my first attempt wasn’t good. I thought Kazuo Ishiguro is Japanese but it turned out that he was born there but lived there for only a year or so, so really is more British. Added to that mix up, the book I read by him, Nocturnes, was so underwhelming

    Liked by 2 people

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