August is Women in Translation month and Matthieu wants to remind you to read more literature in translation! He is a big fan of Japanese lit and wanted to share two recent reads that he really enjoyed (we are going to let Toshiki Okada slip in because he's worth it).
Tomoka Shibasaki's Spring Garden is one of those books that takes you away to a kinder and more sympathetic version of the world. Taro is neighbors with Nishi, a young comic artist who holds an intense fascination towards the house adjoining their apartment complex. Hesitant at first, Taro eventually concedes to helping Nishi learn more about the house across the way. Spring Garden paints a simple portrait of burgeoning friendship and childlike curiosity that you can’t help but smile at. Tender, nostalgic, and a book that attempts to use the past in order to see the future.
The two tales in Toshiki Okada’s The End of the Moment We Had offer glimpses into a brief, idyllic affair and a long, dysfunctional marriage. These stories are presented without ornament, written with choppy dialogue that flows naturally and a prose style which toes the line between minimalism and childishness. The title story is a grimy, yet whimsical exploration of the unspoken connection strangers so often feel. In this case, the strangers stay in a love hotel for a few days, never talking about their personal lives or learning anything about one another. It is enough to simply feel a link. As the days pass, both realize their retreat cannot last forever and the dream ends as subway cars arrive. “My Place in Plural” probes into a crashing marriage that is confined to a dank, moldy apartment and a cafe. The narrative twists and turns through a wife scouring blog posts, a husband napping before his second job, and a surreal image of youthful love that is irretrievable. Both stories are excellent and are so worth the small investment of time they require!
Winner of the Akutagawa Prize, a sharp, photo-realistic novella of memory and thwarted hope: part of our Japanese novella series, showcasing the best contemporary Japanese writing
Two brilliant, multi-layered stories from the winner of the Kenzaburo Oe Prize: part of our Japanese novella series, showcasing the best contemporary Japanese writing.