Firstly, I’d like to say thank you so much to Penguin Classics, Penguin Random House and Sarah for sending me an early copy of this fantastic book! I am so so grateful to have been given the opportunity to read and review it.
So I don’t normally read many short stories, but I absolutely had to jump at the opportunity to read this one. Not only did it consist of some fantastic Japanese authors that I had not discovered yet but the introduction was written by the fantastic and legendary Japanese author, Haruki Murakami. He also wrote two short stories in the book which was an added bonus.
I really loved his introduction as Haruki Murakami explains why he hasn’t read enough books by current Japanese authors. His take on this subject was very interesting and insightful into how he feels about past Japanese literature. I also thought that the structure of the book was great as the collection of stories were organized into themes such as “Japan and The West”, “Men and Women” “Dread” “Nature and Memory and “Modern Life and Other Nonsense”. This made it easier to understand and gave an idea of what to expect.
The short stories themselves I thought were absolutely fantastic and each was so different in terms of the genre and the overall feel they gave me. It’s amazing to think that some of these stories span almost 100 years of Japanese fiction. This is also the first time many of them have been translated into English and it’s really made me want to read more books by other Japanese authors. Its difficult to choose my favourites but I would say the ones that really grabbed me were “The Story of Tomodo and Matsunaga” by Tanizaki Jun’ichirō which was the first story, was one I absolutely loved. It was about a man’s obsession with living a western lifestyle and basically focusing more on fulfilling his own happiness rather than those important to him. I also loved “Sanshirò” by Natsume Sōseki which tells the tale of a young man’s train journey where he meets a married woman who catches his attention.
“There was something pleasant about the way everything fitted together, and he found himself glancing at her every few minutes. Several times their eyes met.”
Mr English By Genji Keita was also hilariously funny about a man called Mogi in his 50s who has been working as an English translator but is still only considered a temp worker. This is one story that I would love to have seen being a stand-alone because Mogi’s personality was out there for sure.
What I felt this book does well is that it gives you an idea of Japanese culture and essentially allows you to understand from the perspective of the East. The book definitely widened my view of Japanese literature and the fact that there are so many other fantastic Japanese authors besides Haruki Murakami. Plus I think if you’ve never read books by Japanese authors then this would be a great beginning for you because you’re being given a catalogue of some great Japanese authors in the palm of your hands. There is also a strong emphasis on human emotions in many of the stories and those are the kind of novels that have always grabbed me. I guess this is one of the main reasons why I love Haruki Murakami so much as a writer.
Overall, I truly loved this book. The collection of short stories were rich in Japanese culture, interesting characters and some very great stories that will definitely stay with me. The stories range from classic to modern which gives you an idea of how Japanese literature has grown and changed over the years. I definitely recommend and it should be top on your list for 2019.
The paperback edition is out on the 4th of April 2019 so get pre ordering guys and make sure you visit your local book shop and ask them about it.