Japanese Literature Challenge 16


Japanase Literature Challenge 16

#JapaneseLitChallenge16   #JapaneseLiterature

Thanks to DolceBelleza (@bellezzamjs) who has been organizing this challenge for many years! This is my 8th participation.
Click on the BEAUTIFUL logo to read more about it, to join us, and to read reviews as they will be posted.

The Challenge runs January-February 2023.
I was planning to read 6 books, but January is starting crazy busy this year, so not sure how well I’ll do with this. But anyway, as usual, I’m planning on reading more Japanese lit all year around.

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Here is my TBR (in chronological order) for this event – my recap, with links to my reviews when they become live.

This year, I have MOSTLY chosen classics, so they also count for my Classics Club’s 4th list.

  1. Shuna’s Journey (1983), by Hayao Miyazaki
  2. I am a Cat (1905), by Natsume Soseki
  3. Hell Screen (1918), by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa review here below
  4. Okamoto Kidō: Master of the Uncanny (1939), by Okamoto Kidō – currently reading
  5. The Honjin Murders (1946), by Seishi Yokomizo
  6. The Hunting Gun (1949), by Yasushi Inoue
  7. The Sound of the Mountain (1953), by Yasunari Kawabata

I just read Hell Screen, so I’m actually posting my review here:

Hell ScreenHell Screen, by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa
First published in 1918
This edition:
Translation by Jay Rubin
58 pages
2/1/2011 by Penguin Group

I had already read In a Grove and Rashoumon by Akutagawa, but the two stories presented here are very different in style.
I think it was a great editor choice to actually put together in the same book these two short stories: Hell Screen and The Spider’s Thread.
They both deal with terrifying characters and hell, within the genre of old tales, legends, fantasy, and horror.

In Hell Screen, among stories related to the great Lord Horikawa, the author focuses on one in which we meet the very gifted artist Yoshihide. The problem is, to paint truthfully he needs live models, so for instance he doesn’t hesitate torturing servants to be able to paint people in pain. Then one day, Horikawa commissions him to paint a folding screen portraying scenes from the eight Buddhist hells. And the painter asks for a live scene of hell to be able to finish his painting in truth…

This was a rather terrifying story, with an expected outcome – it was easy to guess who was going to be burning in a carriage falling from the sky.
I actually didn’t know about the eight Buddhist hells. Some descriptions of sinners pertaining to all stations of life sounded very close to The Divine Comedy, or to paintings by Bosch!

In The Spider’s Thread, we start in Paradise, but from there we see a robber in hell: Kandata. He doesn’t seem to have Yoshihide’s repulsive characteristics, but we discover Kandata’s true nature when he’s given a chance to get out of hell.

It was interesting to discover a very different style in Akutagawa’s short stories.


Book review: Les Dimanches de Monsieur Ushioda

Les Dimanches de Monsieur Ushioda

Les Dimanches de Monsieur Ushioda
by Yasushi Inoue
First published as 欅の木 in 1970
Translated from the Japanese

by Jean-François Laffont and Tadahiro Oku

317 pages
Literary fiction / Japanese literature

Les Dimanches de Monsieur Ushioda doesn’t seem to have been translated into English, so I read it in French.
It’s more light weight and humoristic than the Japanese books I usually read, so I found it just ok in its style, though the content is good and quite modern.

Click to continue reading

Book review: Star


by Yukio Mishima
First published as スタア in 1961
Translated from the Japanese
by Sam Bett

New Directions
96 pages
Literary fiction / Novella

Star is a very interesting portrait of Rikio, a young movie star.
It gets even richer when you realize Yukio Mishima wrote this novella shortly after acting himself in “Afraid to Die”, where he played the role of a yakuza, just like Rikio in the movie he is working on. It makes for an interesting parallel with his own life – including its end.

Click to continue reading