Bilingual Review: Honeybees and Distant Thunder by Onda Riku (蜜蜂と遠雷 恩田 陸)

Winning two major awards, the Naoki Prize for 2016 and the Booksellers’ Award for 2017, this book has been very popular in Japan. I don’t live in Japan but get a sense of popularity based on rankings from Bookmeter.com.

I decided to read this book because I knew I liked Onda Riku’s writing style from reading her novel Night Picnic. Night Picnic is about an entire school taking an annual epic walk through the night, so it is filled with descriptions of a monotonous activity: walking. In Honey Bees and Distant Thunder she describes song after song performed by a young person alone on a stage with a piano. In both of these novels she demonstrates her skill as an author by engaging the reader through vivid and creative descriptions of something that doesn’t seem like it could be so interesting on the surface. Each new song is a new experience, and I think I enjoy reading her descriptions more than I would be able to appreciate an actual piano contest. Although, after reading her novel, I do think I would be able to appreciate real piano music a bit more than before.

第156回直木賞と第14回本屋大賞を受賞して、日本では人気になった本です。日本に住んでいないですが、読書メーターのランキングを見て人気度を把握しています。

前に読んだ同作家が書いた『夜のピクニック』の文体が好きでしたから、この本を読もうと思いました。『夜のピクニック』は高校全生徒で毎年行われる一晩中の歩行についての物語なので、歩行という面白くなさそうな行為の描写に満ちています。同じように『蜜蜂と遠雷』では一人の舞台上の若者の演奏からまた次の一人の演奏を描写しています。双方の小説は面白くなくなる恐れがありそうなのに、鮮やかで想像力のある描写でできていますので恩田さんの作家としての才能がはっきり示されています。それぞれの歌は新しい経験になり、僕にとって実際のピアノコンクールを聴くより恩田さんの言葉の方が楽しめると思います。それにしても、この小説を読了して以来、実際のピアノの音楽が以前より楽しめるようになったと思います。

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Japanese Short Story Review: Long Range by Isaka Kotaro

I’m usually reading one e-book and one paper book at any given time. Lately, I picked two long books, and I haven’t been able to get through either. I’ll be back to write about those later. In the future I’ll be careful to choose something easier to finish in one format or the other.

Since I have missed having something to write about, I tried browsing around on Amazon.co.jp for something shorter, and I found a new Kindle Single, by an author I enjoy, that came out on the 14th of this month. It’s called ロングレンジ by 伊坂幸太郎 (Long Range by Isaka Kotaro). I took the opportunity to grab something I could finish quickly and write about while it’s still current.

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Akutagawa Prize Winner Review: コンビニ人間 – 村田 沙耶香

(konbini ningen – Murata Sayaka) 

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the inside of a Japanese convenience store, but according to this novel I could count on it being just the same if I ever visit one again. This book is about the unchanging convenience store and a person who is also happy staying the same.

Furukura is a 36 year old, single woman who has been working part-time in a convenience store since college. Her peers have all moved on with their lives, getting full-time jobs, getting married, and having kids, but Furukura doesn’t understand the appeal in the normal progression of life.

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Japanese Book Review: アフターダーク- 村上 春樹

afterdark( afutadaku – Murakami Haruki)

Murakami Haruki may be the most popular Japanese author in English translation, so there is a lot of information in English on the internet about English translations of his works. This post is about the Japanese edition, but if you are interested in reading it in English, this review may still be partially relevant.

It really is a challenge finding English reviews of Japanese books in Japanese, because there aren’t any clear keywords to differentiate from reviews of translations when you’re searching in Google. Also, I guess it is a pretty small niche.

This is a short novel, so it may be a good one to read if you don’t want to commit to one of Murakami’s longer novels. It has a creepy atmosphere and takes place in some of the seedier areas of a large city. It’s told linearly from just before midnight to right after the sun comes up, with clock images showing the time at the beginning of each chapter. Some of the narrative is literal and some parts are surreal or dreamlike.

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Japanese Book Review: 夜のピクニック 恩田 陸

418UIhwVOWL._SX344_BO1,204,203,200_yoru no pikunikku  Onda Riku)

Browsing through this list of 50 books that high school students should read from Shinchosha, I picked this book because I thought the cover looked interesting. It turned out to be about high school students walking for 24 hours straight as a school tradition at the end of each year. There are three years of high school in Japan, so they do it three times during their career. The story switches back and forth between the perspective of a half brother and sister who by a bad coincidence ended up in the same class for their last year in high school. They have never spoken to each other despite being in the same class, and they have kept it a secret from all of their friends.

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