Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Summertime 2017: new books

summertime 2017 new books, peonies, coffee cup · Lisa Hjalt

The longest day of the year is upon us and on the west coast of Scotland we have clouds and some rain. The ideal weather for mentioning new books, don't you agree, and for inhaling the scent of the peonies on my desk. I ordered two of these titles from the local library and hope I can add them to my next reading list:

· The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (Hamish Hamilton). After twenty years, finally, a new fiction from Roy! Her novel The God of Small Things, winner of the Man Booker Prize in 1997, is one of the most memorable books I have ever read.
· Theft by Finding: Diaries: Volume One by David Sedaris (Little, Brown). Quite recently he was a guest on The NYT Book Review podcast, talking about and reading from it, and there I was in the kitchen laughing out loud. He is simply hilarious.
· House of Names by Colm Tóibín (Viking). An author I still haven't read. On my to-read list is his novel Brooklyn, which I wanted to read before seeing the film (2015), starring Saoirse Ronan. Couldn't wait and am so glad I didn't. It's a beautiful film that I can watch over and over again.
· The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich (Penguin). She received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2015. This is the long-awaited English translation of her classic oral history of Soviet women's experiences during WWII. Published in July.
· Friend of My Youth by Amit Chaudhuri (Faber). About a man, interestingly named Amit Chaudhuri, who returns to Bombay, the city of his childhood. Published in August.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

The Tale of Genji translation by Seidensticker

'In a certain reign there was a lady not of the first rank whom the emperor loved more than any of the others.' So begins The Tale of Genji, written in the beginning of the 11th century by Murasaki Shikibu, a Japanese lady of the court (the Heian period). Two translations were on my № 9 reading list, the one with Japanese literature only - at the time I wasn't sure which one I would read. Now I'm the lucky owner of an unread, second-hand copy of the Edward G. Seidensticker translation, published by Everyman's Library. Even the ribbon marker hasn't been pulled out.

I have almost finished reading the other works on the list and may share another reading list soon. I like reading multiple books at a time and given The Tale of Genji 's 1184 pages, I find it likely that I will read the first 250 pages or so and then a chapter or two daily alongside other books until I finish. Unless I become completely immersed in it.


Thursday, 1 June 2017

№ 9 reading list: Japanese literature I

№ 9 reading list: Japanese literature I · Lisa Hjalt

Months ago the idea of a Japanese reading list started sprouting in my mind, and once I began writing down authors and titles in my pocket notebook I realised that there would be more than one list. Despite the word snow appearing in one of the titles below, it somehow felt right to ease into the summer reading Japanese literature. This first list is slightly shorter than intended, for the simple reason that one of the books I ordered hasn't arrived and at the last minute I decided not to include two works by the same author. It means that a novel by Yasunari Kawabata, who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1968, will appear on the next list. My blog readers will recognise Tanizaki, but his novel The Makioka Sisters was on an earlier list. I love the fact that at least one blog reader read and enjoyed it as much as I did.

№ 9 reading list:
· First Snow on Fuji  by Yasunari Kawabata
· The Temple of the Golden Pavilion  by Yukio Mishima
· Some Prefer Nettles  by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki
· The Tale of Genji  by Murasaki Shikibu (translated by Edward G. Seidensticker)
· The Tale of Genji  by Murasaki Shikibu (translated by Dennis Washburn)
· My Neighbor Totoro: The Novel  by Tsugiko Kubo (illustrated by Hayao Miyazaki)

As you can see, there are two unabridged editions of The Tale of Genji and I still haven't decided which one to read. The Washburn translation is a new paperback edition by W. W Norton & Co, the other an Everyman's Library edition. I'm trying to order the translation by Seidensticker through my local library, which is the main reason I have postponed sharing the list. If it fails to arrive I'm not sure at this point which one I will purchase. On my Instagram account you may have noticed that I'm already reading The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Mishima. He fictionalised the story of the monk who in 1950 set fire to the Golden Pavilion of Kyoto, erected in the 15th century (the American airplanes spared the temples during the war). This was a shocking event. During the trial the young monk said he was protesting against the commercialisation of Buddhism. However, scholar Donald Keene writes in the introduction that 'he may have been directly inspired by nothing more significant than pique over having been given a worn garment when he had asked the Surperior of the temple for an overcoat'! I'm more than halfway through the book with the pavilion still standing, and troubling the mind of the rather repulsive protagonist.

Have you seen the animation My Neighbour Totoro (1988) by Hayao Miyazaki? It's one of the Japanese favourites in our home. Last year my son and I were sitting at the café of our local Waterstones when he spotted the book on a shelf. We didn't even know it existed and learned then and there that the film had been turned into a novel, featuring Miyazaki's illustrations. It's a beautiful book and of course we walked out of the bookshop with a purchased copy. My son loved reading the story and now it's my turn.