Sunday Post #24 – 2/9/2020

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     Selected poems  Le charretier de la Providence

📚 Selected Poems, by Masaoka Shiki (1902)
Translation by Burton Watson
Read for Japanese Literature Challenge 13 and The Classics Club.

As you know, I’m into a Japanese mood. I found reference to this book in Natsume Soseki’s books. Actually Shiki was born the same year as Soseki, and they even spent some time together.
Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) is credited with modernizing Japan’s two traditional verse forms, haiku and tanka.
I’m French and have always enjoyed poetry in French, or in Spanish – Pablo Neruda is one of my favorite poets. But for some reason, I have always had problems with most English speaking poets (with a few exceptions). I usually find them too wordy.
I had run into haiku before, obviously, but it never completely clicked.
This book had an excellent introduction explaining the origin and structure of authentic haiku. I’m finally realizing that preferring short poems and the presence of nature, haiku was actually perfect for me, as they usually (in their traditional form) refer to nature.
I really enjoyed this selection, ranged chronologically to highlight the importance of and evolution between the various seasons.
My favorite was this one

Haiku by Shiki

So be prepared, you will hear more about haiku from me!

📚 Le charretier de la Providence [Lock 14] (1931)
Maigret #2
Read as a readalong with one of my French students and for The Classics Club.

This whole novel is about the world of locks on (usually) quiet (mostly) small French rivers. There were some technical details, but it was neat to learn more about this job of what you have to do to let boats go in and out locks, through the long French network of canals.
And Maigret observes this world often on his bike on the path alongside the river.
Living mostly on a boat is a total different culture. I think Simenon did a fantastic job here at recreating this atmosphere, the feeling of space on a boat, and the relationship between the people living on them, as well as with the people in the villages they stop at, for instance le café where they often stop for a drink while their boat is in the lock.
Simenon is also great at describing some special characters here!
About the title, I don’t think it’s a spoiler, it has nothing to do with the Divine Providence – though there might be a message somewhere about that. La Providence here is simply the name of a boat. And le charretier is the man who leads the horses that drag some boats from the side of the river.
As for the mystery: A woman was found murdered in a barn near Lock 14, with fancy clothes on and expensive jewelry, and very far from where she lived.Who is she? Why was she there? Why was she murdered? Maigret has to get deep into getting to know the culture and life of this world of locks and boats to find out what happened.
It was well done.
All along, I was amazed at discovering lots of details reminding me of Jean Valjean. Could it be an early example of fanfiction?


Second Sister  Norwegian Wood

📚 Second Sister
Received for review through Edelweiss
Release date: February 18
“An up-to-the-minute tale of a Darwinian digital city where everyone from tech entrepreneurs to teenagers is struggling for the top.
A schoolgirl—Siu-Man—has committed suicide, leaping from her twenty-second floor window to the pavement below. Siu-Man is an orphan and the librarian older sister who’s been raising her refuses to believe there was no foul play—nothing seemed amiss. She contacts a man known only as N.—a hacker, and an expert in cybersecurity and manipulating human behavior. But can Nga-Yee interest him sufficiently to take her case, and can she afford it if he says yes?”

📚 Norwegian Wood
Reading for Japanese Literature Challenge 13 and with the Murakami online book club.
“Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable.”

Audio book


📚  Complot:
I really enjoyed book 1 in this series. 
Why would the Norwegian Prime Minister be found murdered in the same way as a woman found in a very old burial pit in England?


The Missing Sister

📚 The Missing Sister
Received for review for Criminal Element
Release date: April 1st
“Shayna Darby is finally coming to terms with her parents’ deaths when she’s delivered another blow. The body of her estranged twin sister, Angela—the possible victim of a serial killer—has been pulled from the Seine. Putting what’s left of her life on hold, Shayna heads to Paris. But while cleaning out Angela’s apartment, Shayna makes a startling discovery: a coded message meant for her alone…
Alive. Trust no one.
Taking the warning to heart, Shayna maintains the lie. She makes a positive ID on the remains and works to find out where—and why—her missing sister is hiding. Shayna retraces her sister’s footsteps, and they lead her down into Paris’s underbelly.
As she gets closer to the truth—and to the killer—Shayna’s own life may now be in the balance…”


2 nonfiction books:

 The Rise and Fall of Modern Japanese Literature  On Tyranny

📚 The Rise and Fall of Modern Japanese Literature
Published in 2018
I think I found reference to this book in my Haruki Murakami online Book Club. With all the Japanese literature I have read, I think it would be most interesting at this point to read this type of literary criticism.

The Rise and Fall of Modern Japanese Literature tells the story of Japanese literature from its start in the 1870s against the backdrop of a rapidly coalescing modern nation to the present. John Whittier Treat takes up both canonical and forgotten works, the non-literary as well as the literary, and pays special attention to the Japanese state’s hand in shaping literature throughout the country’s nineteenth-century industrialization, a half-century of empire and war, its post-1945 reconstruction, and the challenges of the twenty-first century to modern nationhood.
Beginning with journalistic accounts of female criminals in the aftermath of the Meiji civil war, Treat moves on to explore how woman novelist Higuchi Ichiyo’s stories engaged with modern liberal economics, sex work, and marriage; credits Natsume Soseki’s satire I Am a Cat with the triumph of print over orality in the early twentieth century; and links narcissism in the visual arts with that of the Japanese I-novel on the eve of the country’s turn to militarism in the 1930s. From imperialism to Americanization and the new media of television and manga, from boogie-woogie music to Yoshimoto Banana and Murakami Haruki, Treat traces the stories Japanese audiences expected literature to tell and those they did not. The book concludes with a classic of Japanese science fiction a description of present-day crises writers face in a Japan hobbled by a changing economy and unprecedented natural and manmade catastrophes. The Rise and Fall of Japanese Literature reinterprets the “end of literature”—a phrase heard often in Japan—as a clarion call to understand how literary culture worldwide now teeters on a historic precipice, one at which Japan’s writers may have arrived just a moment before the rest of us.”

📚 On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
Recommended by another bookblogger as a must for everyone, and presented by a member of my book club. It seems really timely to read.
A historian of fascism offers a guide for surviving and resisting America’s turn towards authoritarianism.
On November 9th, millions of Americans woke up to the impossible: the election of Donald Trump as president. Against all predictions, one of the most-disliked presidential candidates in history had swept the electoral college, elevating a man with open contempt for democratic norms and institutions to the height of power.
Timothy Snyder is one of the most celebrated historians of the Holocaust. In his books Bloodlands and Black Earth, he has carefully dissected the events and values that enabled the rise of Hitler and Stalin and the execution of their catastrophic policies. With Twenty Lessons, Snyder draws from the darkest hours of the twentieth century to provide hope for the twenty-first. As he writes, “Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism and communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.”
Twenty Lessons is a call to arms and a guide to resistance, with invaluable ideas for how we can preserve our freedoms in the uncertain years to come.


Once Upon a Word

📚 Once Upon a Word: A Word-Origin Dictionary for Kids–Building Vocabulary Through Etymology, Definitions & Stories
Release day 2/25/20, received for review through The Callisto Publisher’s Club
“Where do words come from?–Learning new words by understanding their stories.
The English language is made up of words from different places, events, and periods of time. Each of those words has an exciting story to tell us about where, when, how, and why they came about. Once Upon a Word is packed with easy-to-understand definitions and awesome word-origin stories. With this dictionary for kids, you can understand the history and meaning of English words, improve your vocabulary and spelling, and learn to play with language.
Explore how weird words like gnome, fun words like zombie, and common words like caterpillar came to exist. Discover why some words sound funnier than others (like cacklesizzle, and twang) and why some groups of words start with the same few letters (like hydratehydrogen, and fire hydrant). In this dictionary for kids, there’s a whole world of English words to uncover!”


📚 In the trilogy I read by Natsume Soseki (Sanshiro / And Then / The Gate), I found reference to the master of Haiku Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902). I checked a volume of Selected Poems at my library and devoured it tonight. It also had an excellent introduction by the translator, Burton Watson. See my short review above.

📚 Time to confess, yesterday, I also checked out three other books from my library, and tonight I started reading two of them: The Essential Haiku: versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa, edited by Robert Hass. These are exactly the 3 other Haiku masters referred to in introduction or afterward to Soseki’s trilogy! I know, they are the top ones, but still, it was amazing that my library had THAT book. Now don’t be surprised I checked it out, lol.
It’s got a good general introduction, and then another introduction specific to each master before the selection of their haiku. For Basho, they mention his various trip journals, another temptation on the horizon…
📚 The other one I started is The Book of Ichigo Ichie: The Art of Making the Most of Every Moment, the Japanese Way, by Héctor Garcia and Francesc Miralles, the authors of Ikigai, a book I really enjoyed last year.
📚 Today, I also started reading the 2nd Maigret book, that I’m reading with my French student: Le charretier de la providence, by Georges Simenon (see short review above). One English translation has for title Lock 14, which I think is much better for the suspense.
📚 I also read chapters 8-9 of Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami, to be ready for our online discussion this Sunday.
I know, it’s a lot of books going on at the same time, but if they are different, and with different format (paper, digital, audio), I manage not to mix them up. Plus I take notes.

📚 Le charretier de la providence was an easy read, and I finished it tonight.

📚 I read up to 17% of Second Sister, by Chan Ho-Kei.
I like the suspense about who Siu-Man really was, about what really happened or not to her in the subway, and the craziness going on on Chinese social media, and the world of hackers and the dark web. Really well done so far.
📚 I finally went on reading Theological Territories, by David Bentley Hart. I am in essay on on Tradition and Authority. The author’s view on a dynamic Tradition in Orthodoxy makes total sense to me. This was much easier to read than the six previous essays. Still, when I’m too tired, I have to choose easier reading.

📚 My French audio, Complot, by Nicolas Beuglet, is getting really intense. There was a very tough torture scene today… Still, the author has really a knack at combining all kinds of fascinating real data, like on feminism, masculinism, a very old grave (burial pit 3666) found at Cliffs End Farm, Isle of Thanet, Kent, and the ancient city of Byblos!

📚 Complot, by Nicolas Beuglet. As in the first book in the series, there are actually elements related to religion. I wonder where this is going. The author does read a lot of religious texts, including the Bible, and he does a lot of research. He likes starting from real data.
📚 Second Sister, by Chan Ho-Kei. The hacker the victim’s older sister has found is very rude, but he is so good as what he’s doing. So she can only put up with him, as she so wants him to find out what really happened to her sister, and why.


📚 Book of the month giveaway


    Japanese Literature 13

January-March: Japanese Literature Challenge 13




38 thoughts on “Sunday Post #24 – 2/9/2020

  1. Usually when someone asks if I’ve read any of the books they’ve read, I have to say no. But this time, I can say that I’ve read The Essential Haiku: versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa, edited by Robert Hass. I picked it up last year while shelf-reading (making sure the books are in the correct order) at the library where I work. As I recall, it was a solid introduction to those haiku poets and made me want to read more by them and other haiku poets. When you mentioned on my blog in the comments about reading a Chinese thriller, I was curious what it was and now I know. I’m intrigued by the Beuglet book; going to seek it out now.


    • Alas, Beuglet hasn’t been translated in English yet. When they are, I hope they do translate the first one in the series first, Le Cri. Seems obvious, but sometimes they start translating #2, which never makes sense to me.
      If you like thrillers and geeky stuff with hackers, you have to try Second Sister!
      So glad you’ve read that fantastic Haiku introduction.
      I used to work in a library too, loved it!


  2. I so envy you. It sounds like you are having so much fun with the Japanese Lit Challenge. I think I will take it up next year.

    I’ve always loved haiku. Shorter is better. I do think we use too many words in our English poems.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about Maigret. I do wish they would put more Maigret on PBS. I enjoyed the single episode I watched there.

    I hope you have a lovely week!


    • wow, first time I read a native Anglophone say hat as well about English poetry!
      Huh, I thought Maigret had his own series. I thought there were lots of DVDs at my library on him, but maybe it’s an old series


  3. I like poetry that deals with nature so I’d probably like haiku, although I haven’t read a lot of it. It’s nice to be exposed to more. Second Sister sounds like a really good, intense read as well.

    Hope you have a great week!


  4. I love that you’re doing a Japanese literature challenge. I took a class in college but I don’t read too many these days. I should change that. Once Upon a Word sounds awesome, I read a short, illustrated word origin book earlier this year and really liked it.

    I hope you enjoy your books! (Sorry if this posts twice, I think my first comment got eaten)


  5. I have a couple of Japanese translations on my shelf but haven’t managed to get to them yet. I love Haiku, short and sweet.


  6. Interesting reading list. I have to admit I’ve never really taken haiku seriously. Wasn’t there a blog meme at some point about writing haikus on a certain day? Have a great week!


  7. Haiku can be fun to read and to write. I enjoy it from time to time. I am glad you are enjoying exploring the format. Le charretier de la Providence sounds like an interesting read. When I was a child visiting Seattle, Washington, I got to see to see the Hiram M. Chittenden locks and was fascinated to see them in action as boats slowly made their way through. I hope you have a great week, Emma!


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  9. Once Upon a Word sounds like a lot of fun AND informative. My hubby teaches linguistics, so for me it’s always interesting to learn about language development. Thanks for all these shares, Emma!


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