The Japanese Literature Challenge IV

I love Japanese Literature and so enjoy browsing the reviews on the Japanese Literature Challenge site.

Bellezza has done a fantastic job promoting Japanese fiction and now that my Booker reading is coming to an end I’ll be spending more time reading books in translation.

I don’t think I’ll be able to read that many Japanese books before the challenge ends on January 30th, 2011, but I hope to complete these three:


Paprika by Yasutaka Tsutsui

Strangers by Taichi Yamada

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

Have you read any of these books?

Which other Japanese books do you recommend I read?

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  1. Good luck with the challenge! I’m also taking part but haven’t actually started yet as I was busy with other challenges (with a deadline at the end of this month).

    After dark is great but odd. I think it’s the one with the sleeping sister, which I didn’t understand. But I think not many people do, so that’s OK.

    I can recommend anything else by Murakami. I love his books. I’m going to read (amongst others) Out by Natsuo Kirino. I’ve heard a lot about this book, and it should be really good.

    1. Jackie says:

      Judith, I’m a big fan of Murakami and have read quite a few of his books – I’m getting to the more obscure ones now. It is good to hear this one is odd – I like his odd ones more than the normal ones!!

      I loved Out. It is my favourite thriller so I hope that you enjoy it!

  2. Sandy says:

    I participated in this challenge last year, but I need to restrain. My challenges are starting to cramp my style. I still do have a couple of Murakami books on my shelf I want to read though!

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, I have cut back on the challenges this year as they did get too much for me. I’m concentrating on ones for fields I love. The good thing about this one is that you only have to read one book, but I’m sure I’ll get through a few more than that. Good luck with your challenges :-)

  3. Jessica says:

    I have been doing this. Ive read one so far which was Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro and as a result I have brought two more of his books. I also have In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami but this looks like its going to be quite a grusome read.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jessica, I’d forgotten about those books. I really want to read Never Let Me Go and might read that next month – I need to add it to my list now :-)

      I have also really wanted to read some Ryu Murakami. I am scared that they will be a bit violent, but some people adore them and so I’m willing to give them a try. I might keep an eye out for Miso Soup next time I’m in the library.

  4. Steph says:

    Yukio Mishima! He is so awesome and woefully overlooked in the pantheon of Japanese fiction! The Temple of the Golden Pavilion is just one of those books that rocked my world.

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, The Golden Pavillion is on my wishlist, but I haven’t got a copy yet and my library system doesn’t own it. I’m keeping my eye out for it, but will probably cave in and buy it soon. Don’t worry – I wont overlook it :-)

      1. JoV says:

        I’m so excited that you are doing the challenge too!! I have read 4 books (Hotel Iris, Sputnik sweetheart, After Dark, and Changeling, final one by Oe) so far and intend to read more!

        Like you, I’m exasperated that my local library do not stock Mishima. I’m reading the only one that they do, “After the Banquet” and “The Sailor who fell from grace with the sea” is coming by post and then like you I’ll have to resort to purchasing the Golden Pavillion! :(

        Nice to have you on board the challenge too!

        1. Jackie says:

          JoV, I want to read all of the books you’ve read. I’m sure I’ll get to them all at some point, but probably not in the next six months – it is great to see such enthusiasm for Japanese literature :-)

  5. Teresa says:

    I have read After Dark; it was my first Murakami, and it’s still the only one of his novels that I’ve read because I’ve only gotten to his running book. It is strange, but compelling and atmospheric. I do have Kafka on the Shore, and I’ll get to it one day.

    1. Jackie says:

      Teresa, I have a copy of the running book too, but After Dark sounds wonderful. I think I’ll save it for a dark Autumn night :-)

  6. Stephanie says:

    I haven’t read much Japanese literature yet, though I read — and liked — Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore.

    1. Jackie says:

      Stephanie, Kafka on the Shore is my favourite Murakami, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy some of his other books :-)

  7. Bellezza says:

    Jackie, I’m hoping to read Paprika, too; I bought it last year after reading Tanabata’s review. I read After Dark which I loved, but what’s not to love about Murakami, right? I want to delve into some other Japanese authors which are new to me such as Mishima as Steph suggests. I did read Natsuo Kirino’s Out and Real World. They were fascinating, but in an action-movie sense more than a philosophical chew-on-this-thought sense. If that makes sense? ;) I look forward to your thoughts on whatever it is you choose.

    1. Jackie says:

      Bellezza, I hadn’t heard of Paprika, but saw it in a charity shop and saw the quote on the front comparing it to Murakami and so had to buy it – let’s hope we enjoy it.

      I thought that Out was thought-provoking as well as action packed. It made me think about how far I’d go to protect a friend among other things. I loved it!!

      Thanks for hosting such a fantastic challenge :-)

      1. Bellezza says:

        That’s true…it did make me think about friendship. And also, about marriage. How far would you go to get out of an unhappy one, to be more specific. It made me awfully thankful for mine!

        Thank you for participating in the challenge. :)

  8. I read Strangers years ago, Jackie. It is a really quirky book but I do remember enjoying it. Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

    1. Jackie says:

      The Book Whisperer, That’s good to know – I look forward to finding out what I make of it :-)

  9. Stujallen says:

    wonderful selection of books jackie hope you enjoy them ,all the best stu

  10. Bina says:

    Those sound all great! I haven’t signed up fpor the challenge, but I think I will get wonderful suggestions. I adore Banana Yoshimoto, but haven’t read many other Japanese books.

    1. Jackie says:

      Bina, I love Yoshimoto too! I read all? her books before blogging, but if you like her books then I’m sure you’ll love many more Japanese books.

  11. I’ve only read After Dark, which was actually my least enjoyed Murakami book ever. It’s weird and quirky and sometimes quite entertaining, yes, but the thing I like about the other Murakami books is that they manage to whip you into a kind of reading trance where the plot points don’t even seem weird anymore. This one kept my feet irritatingly on the ground.

    1. Jackie says:

      Lija, That’s a shame. I know what you mean about Murakami making the unreal seem realistic. I hope that I enjoy it more than you did.

  12. I’ve only read one for the Japanese Lit Challenge IV (Kafka On The Shore) and haven’t read any of the books you’ve mentioned above. I do want to read both, After Dark and Strangers though.

    Enjoy the challenge – I hope to read Ishiguro’s Nocturnes soon as well as Hotel Iris. Been meaning to read another book by Natsuo Kirino as well, but might save that for next year.

    1. Jackie says:

      anothercookiecrumbles, I need to get to The Housekeeper and the Professor first – I forgot about that one too! I own a copy so perhaps I’ll slip that one into my Japanese literature challenge before moving onto Hotel Iris. Enjoy your choices :-)

  13. Tony says:

    Last year was Mishima; this year is Natsume Soseki and Tanizaki. Every year is Murakami :) Five Japanese books down so far for this year’s challenge, so I think I’ll get up to 12-15 by the end of January.

    Not that I’m obsessed or anything…

    1. Jackie says:

      Tony, 15?! Wow! Sounds as though you’re obsessed to me ;-)

  14. diane says:

    Good luck Jackie….I’ve read After Dark and enjoyed it.

    1. Jackie says:

      diane, I hope that I enjoy it too :-)

  15. I really enjoyed Strangers, it innocently captures your attention. It was my first book read for the Japanese Literature Challenge this year. If you enjoy Strangers, consider reading Be With You by Takuji Ichikawa. It’s another small quirky book with ghostly connections.

    1. Jackie says:

      Suzanne, I haven’t heard of Be With You before. Thank you for drawing it to my attention :-)

  16. Charlie says:

    I’ve just clicked the link for Paprika, that’s an interesting cover! I’ve only read a couple of Japanese novels, and didn’t enjoy them, so I wouldn’t recommend them. So much literature I’ve read in the past has been Chinese, I really need to branch out more.

    1. Jackie says:

      Charlie, Apparently the cover has nothing to do with the contents and I find that quite reassuring – not sure I want to read about a women eating too many strawberries ;-)

      I’m a big fan of Chinese literature too – hopefully I’ll squeeze a few of them in before the end of the year too.

      1. Charlie says:

        I read the synopsis, and it shocked me because yeah, I was expecting something more culinary. Sounds like it fits the woman element of the cover though.

        Me neither, I haven’t read any for ages, which is crazy considering what I said. There’s an Anchee Min or two around here somewhere waiting…

  17. Amy says:

    I haven’t heard of any of those but they look interesting. I’ll be watching for your reviews!

    1. Jackie says:

      Amy, I hope that I enjoy them all :-)

  18. Dan Holloway says:

    After Dark is just marvellous. Utterly utterly compelling, beautiful, haunting, and transitory-permanent as a breath of wind that’s gone before you know it’s there but leaves you changed forever.

    How about Ryu Murakami’s Audition, the basis for the wince-inducing film?

  19. Dan Holloway says:

    And I see you have a Taichi Yamada there – I’ve read I haven’t Dreamed of Flying for a While which was very creepy and all-roound excellent

    1. Jackie says:

      Dan, So good to see that you loved After Dark and enjoyed a Yamada.

      I’m sure I’ll get around to reading all Ryu Murakami books at some point – I’ll just have to wait and see which one comes into my path first :-)

  20. sakura says:

    I read After Dark last year, and although it isn’t one of my favourite Murakami novels (I loved Norwegian Wood and Wind-up Bird Chronicle) I still think he’s a master at writing about alienation in society. Looking forward to your review. I haven’t read the other two although I’ve heard a lot about them. I’ve only read one book for this year’s JLC (The Samurai by Shusaku Endo which I loved) but am hoping to read more of Endo’s novels and maybe one by Ishiguro, Soseki or Mishima. Happy reading!

  21. Kathleen says:

    I must hang my head in shame and admit that I’ve read next to no Japanese Literature. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on what you read for the challenge. I’m sure you will give me some good ideas for my future reading.

  22. Shannon says:

    I read After Dark not too long ago – like Sakura, it’s not my favourite Murakami, but it is different from the others I’ve read and perhaps more accessible to readers not into his magical realism style.

    I’m going to look into the others here. My pickings for this challenge are so far a little slim :)

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