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.

📚 📚 📚

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

Sunday Post #54 – 2/20/2022

Sunday Post

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by
Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It’s a chance to share news.
A post to recap the past week on your blog,
showcase books and things we have received.
Share news about what is coming up
on your blog
for the week ahead.
See rules here: Sunday Post Meme


This post also counts for

Sunday Salon    Stacking the Shelves  Mailbox Monday2

 It's Monday! What Are You Reading2  IMWAYR  WWW Wednesdays 2

#SundayPost #SundaySalon
#StackingTheShelves #MailboxMonday
#itsmonday #IMWAYR
#WWWWednesday #WWWWednesdays

Click on the logos to join the memes,
and on the book covers to access synopsis or review

More cold, more snow. Nothing new here.

  • On Friday, we had our monthly book club meeting online. Will share the books we talked about on February 24.
  • Yesterday, for our Cultural Saturday breakfast, we watched the first episode of The Blue Planet, one of many fabulous documentaries by David Attenborough. We are twenty years late, I know, but it is still enjoyable today. This should keep us busy for a few months.
  • We may actually use another Saturday morning to finish watching the ballet Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev, in a modern choreography by Nureyev (Opéra de Paris).

Since last Sunday, on the blog:


 Lean On Me   Les Dimanches de Monsieur Ushioda

Strega Nona

📚 Lean on Me, by Serge Joncour
Translated from the French by Louise Rogers Lalaurie and Jane Aitken
US publication date: March 1, 2022
by Gallic Books
Literary fiction/romance

Received for review
Read it also for
The 2022 Books in Translation Reading Challenge

VERDICT: Romance and social analysis of the impact of urban life on human nature. An exquisite French mix.
My full review is here

📚 Les Dimanches de Monsieur Ushioda, by Yasushi Inoue
Published in 1970
Translated by Jean-François Laffont and Tadahiro Oku
Read for The Japanese Literature Challenge 15
The 2022 Books in Translation Reading Challenge
and The Classics Club

VERDICT: Humoristic take on Japanese modern life. With warnings related to the environment.
Come back tomorrow to read my full review.

📚Strega Nona, by Tomie dePaola
Picture book published in 1975

I saw this on another blog, and the cover was so cute I checked it out right away at my library.
The illustrations are indeed fabulous, this is a style I thoroughly enjoyed.
The beginning of the story was great, but I didn’t like at all the ending. I thought the choice of the punishment was stupid and didn’t really fit with the original intention of the boy.
Strega Nona could have turned the boy’s action into something so much more positive than this stupid thing to do. Definitely not eco-sensitive either.


The Box Man  The Final Days of Abbot Montrose

Chez les Flamands

Once Upon a River

📚 The Box Man, by Kobo Abe
Published in 1973
Reading for The Japanese Literature Challenge 15
The 2022 Books in Translation Reading Challenge
and The Classics Club

“Kobo Abe, the internationally acclaimed author of Woman in the Dunes, combines wildly imaginative fantasies and naturalistic prose to create narratives reminiscent of the work of Kafka and Beckett.
In this eerie and evocative masterpiece, the nameless protagonist gives up his identity and the trappings of a normal life to live in a large cardboard box he wears over his head. Wandering the streets of Tokyo and scribbling madly on the interior walls of his box, he describes the world outside as he sees or perhaps imagines it, a tenuous reality that seems to include a mysterious rifleman determined to shoot him, a seductive young nurse, and a doctor who wants to become a box man himself. The Box Man is a marvel of sheer originality and a bizarrely fascinating fable about the very nature of identity.”

📚  The Final Days of Abbot Montrose, by Sven Elvestad
Published in 1917
Reading for The 2022 Books in Translation Reading Challenge
and The Classics Club

I was contacted by Kazabo Publishing. They specialize in forgotten gems, best-sellers in their country of origin at one point, but never yet translated into English. Totally my type of books, especially for classic mysteries. This one is a classic from Norway.

“From the founder of the modern Norwegian crime novel, a story that will keep you thrilled and mystified.
It is an evening in early May when the quiet of Montrose Abbey is shattered by the sounds of shouting and broken glass. When the police arrive, they find the abbey library ransacked and bloodstained. Broken furniture and a burning carpet bear witness to a violent struggle. And the abbot himself, the scholarly Abbot Montrose, is missing. Only a torn fragment of his cassock remains, caught in the wrought-iron fence surrounding the abbey.
The police, the press, and citizens of this northern city fear the worst. What could have befallen the missing abbot? Has he been murdered? Abducted?
As world-renowned Detective Asbjørn Krag and his partner, Detective Sirius Keller, begin to unravel the tangled knot of clues left behind, they find themselves in the city’s infamous Krydder District, “where the dark doorways are as close together as rat holes in an old warehouse.” The more answers they find, the more questions seem to pop up.
This well-constructed, evocative and witty mystery by Sven Elvestead, also known as Stein Riverton (for whom the Norwegian Riverton Prize was named), will keep you guessing until the very last page.”

📚  Maigret chez les Flamands (Maigret #15), by Georges Simenon
Published in 1932
Available in English as The Flemish House.
Reading for The 2022 Books in Translation Reading Challenge
and The Classics Club

I am reading this one with one of my French students.
With this #15 (out of 75!), we are back near the water, this time in France near the Belgian border. Awesome greyish ambiance as always with Simenon.
Talking about Maigret, this week a new movie, Maigret, is coming out in France, with Gérard Depardieu as Maigret himself. I have the feeling this is going to be really good. I can’t wait to have it available in streaming.

“Maigret is asked to the windswept, rainy border town of Givet by a young woman desperate to clear her family of murder. But their well-kept shop, the sleepy community and its raging river all hide their own mysteries.”

🎧 Once Upon a River, by Diane Setterfield
464 pages/16H27
Published December 4, 2018 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Historical fiction

I have a few more hours to go, and not sure yet where this is going. It’s good, but I find it too long and not as good as The Thirteenth Tale.

“On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the river Thames, an extraordinary event takes place. The regulars are telling stories to while away the dark hours, when the door bursts open on a grievously wounded stranger. In his arms is the lifeless body of a small child. Hours later, the girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life. Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can science provide an explanation? These questions have many answers, some of them quite dark indeed.
Those who dwell on the river bank apply all their ingenuity to solving the puzzle of the girl who died and lived again, yet as the days pass the mystery only deepens. The child herself is mute and unable to answer the essential questions: Who is she? Where did she come from? And to whom does she belong? But answers proliferate nonetheless.
Three families are keen to claim her. A wealthy young mother knows the girl is her kidnapped daughter, missing for two years. A farming family reeling from the discovery of their son’s secret liaison, stand ready to welcome their granddaughter. The parson’s housekeeper, humble and isolated, sees in the child the image of her younger sister. But the return of a lost child is not without complications and no matter how heartbreaking the past losses, no matter how precious the child herself, this girl cannot be everyone’s. Each family has mysteries of its own, and many secrets must be revealed before the girl’s identity can be known.
Once Upon a River is a glorious tapestry of a book that combines folklore and science, magic and myth. Suspenseful, romantic, and richly atmospheric, the beginning of this novel will sweep you away on a powerful current of storytelling, transporting you through worlds both real and imagined, to the triumphant conclusion whose depths will continue to give up their treasures long after the last page is turned.”


The Year of My Life

📚 The Year of My Life, by Kobayashi Issa
Published in 1973
Reading for The Japanese Literature Challenge 15
The 2022 Books in Translation Reading Challenge
and The Classics Club

An autobiography in haibun – a mixed form of haiku and prose.


L'Oiseau bleu

📚  L’oiseau bleu, by Maurice Maeterlinck
Play published in 1905 – Belgian classic
Available as The Blue Bird in French

There was a mention to it in Les Dimanches de Monsieur Ushioda! Now I’m intrigued!

“A story of a brother and sister who help a little girl whose illness can only be cured by the magical Blue Bird of Happiness. To find the bird, Mytyl and Tyltyl quest through the Land of Memory to the Palace of Night. The children get help from the good fairy Bérylune.”


The Final Days of Abbot MontroseSee information above.

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