|Week 4|4 September 2021|
|End page |52|
|End loc (Kindle) |472|
|End phrase | end of story|
How is the reading going?
I am reading along
I am catching up
I am dropping this book
Please read the guidelines on the first page before adding any words.
What sentence/passage gave you the most difficulty? Feel free to request some help, or if you figured it out on your own break it down for the rest of us!
What was your favorite new vocab word from this week’s reading?
Was there any passage that you found particularly intriguing? Did it resonate with you (either positively or negatively)? Was it surprising? Offer any insight or new perspective? Was it just beautifully written?
Not sure what you mean by “seeing a lot of PC action”. A Mac is technically a PC.
Are you looking for apps for a phone?
Anyways, it kind of depends on where you got the ebook from. If it’s a major website like Bookwalker or Amazon they have their own apps that usually have a version for Apple phones. If you have DRM-free ebooks then you can use any ebook reader you can find in the app store. Some wont work with vertical text so you might need to try a few. I don’t use Apple so I can’t recommend anything in particular.
For PC though I can recommend Calibre. They do have an Apple OS version as well. It includes an ebook reader with built in lookup feature that can be used with ichi.moe, Jisho and others.
Her reaction to being caught by her mother was interesting. It seems like she didn’t think her mum would care (or do anything about it, at least) if she caught them, but she was surprised to see her mother stick up for her (however misguidedly). Am I correct in interpreting 私は母の健全さに打ちのめされた as the main character being pleasantly surprised by it?
At any rate, she seems to be taking out a fair bit of rage on her mother in the ending. I got the sense that she had been sedated by sleeping pills, unable to wake up at getting kicked repeatedly in the chest? Is the main character angry at her mother for the same general reasons as were mentioned throughout the story (her lack of respect for her childish, neurotic behaviour) or is she angry that her mother ‘ruined a good thing’ between her and the tutor? She does think about the tutor as she attacks her mother (先生の音をたてない裸足がまぶたの裏にちらつく). Or is she angry at her mother because she feels humiliated (あのときの母の背中を鮮明に思い出した。やっと忘れかけていたのに)?
Also, did the tutors’ mum literally put him in a cardboard box…?
Well, that was quite the interesting story, haha. Just to reiterate once again, for me definitely the hardest in terms of language of the Murata stories we’ve read so far.
I’m not sure if the was pleasantly surprised, but it didn’t seem like she was negatively surprised. Though the sentence is that she’s surprised/overwhelmed by her mother’s wholesomness (母の健全さ) or whatever is best to translate it?
I was wondering for a moment if she might have told something to her mother because she so easily abandoned him.
But likely not, looking at a setence like the following which I have some trouble with:
If I’m right, it means something like even though they spent a lot of time together, they weren’t deeply connected with eachother and it was more like both enjoyed their part of it independently? Meaning they didn’t really care for eachother?
Reading that question made me realize I can’t really say much about it. I think I’ll need to re-read this story in half a year or so and see if I get more out of it. Trying to get a gist out of every sentence kind of overshadowed a lot of my comprehension and memory of the plot itself. Certainly a tough read.
For a bit I thought 私 might end up developing some kind of familial feelings towards her mother after the mother’s (misguided) show of motherly wrath and support. When we got to the last scene, with 私 creeping into her mom’s bedroom, I was apprehensive this would mirror 先生, in a way. Of course the actions 私’s feelings shaped weren’t better.
I thought there was even an interesting parallel to be drawn between the detached, analytical way 私 views 美津子’s diet and her mother’s increasing dependency on sleeping pills. I wonder how much you have to take to not notice someone stepping on your chest with all their might… I’m half thinking the mother light never wake up at all, and may in fact have overdosed already. Though I believe dying by sleeping pills comes with some obvious side effects, such as vomiting. I’m not too 詳しい.
Like Kappa, I didn’t interpret it as 私 being pleasantly surprised. If anything the use of 打ちのめされた makes it sound negative to my ears.
The mother takes them herself, to help her sleep. They came up before too, when the mother revenge cooled for her husband and his surprise guests, and 私 dumped a whole bottle into the stew or soup or something liquids in any case.
I think she is angry about all of those things. And for some reason, the memory of her mother showing motherly qualities is really upsetting to her. She doesn’t want to reconcile and build a bond. Or that is my interpretation at least.
I appreciate that we don’t get everything explained and broken down for our understanding, but it also leaves a lot of things open for interpretation. I’m not sure it’s a matter of comprehension so much as it really is quite vague in many ways. Makes this a much tougher read than say, コンビニ人間, or 殺人出産 for sure!
That was such a throwaway conversation! I expected something to come off it, and it did escalate their ‘game’. But I suppose that shows how much thought 私 gives to how other might be feeling.
I’m half thinking I might just prefer 村田 long form to her short stories - this one seems so incomplete, and there’s no real conclusion (almost like an actual slice of a life! - ). It’s a bit unsatisfying. By that logic, I should like each of the following stories more than the last, since they keep getting longer. But then, I really liked that super short short story at the end of 殺人出産…
I guess I won’t be voting for a short story collection next poll.
I was also wondering if it was literal, and since you didn’t object, I guess it was!
I said I’m also reading 生命式 currently and the difference is so huge It’s actually interesting that her language got easier the longer she was writing. I think it is usually the other way around? The language gets refined? I mean, I prefer the simpler language, but…
Btw I made a translation of the first story in 生命式 into my native tongue as an exercise. * making proud noises *
I had exactly one reader in the form of my husband
It took me around 25 hours to make, eh. Not gonna attempt something like this again too soon. This is actually the reason why I finished 授乳 late.
Umm, back to 授乳!
I agree with the categorization! It really felt exactly like a dark, twisted - but a slice of life. Everyone has some issue, nothing’s right, but they are all floating through life somehow and nobody around them really pays attention. There was some gossip, but not a real concern. And the only student described in detail beside the protagonist has an anorexia.
And it’s not protagonist vs the world like in コンビニ人間, even - here the protagonist is also not a very likeable person.
I think I didn’t appreciate the vagueness of the ending. I’m simple and I prefer simpler conclusions
I’ll start by saying I really don’t think I gave this story the attention it might have deserved. As others have said it was significantly more difficult than any Murata story we’ve read so far. At first I chalked it up to the difficulty that always comes with easing into a new book, so I plowed ahead expecting to be able to read at the same pace that I did 殺人出産, which really hurt my comprehension.
I think that she might have really honed her style as she gained experience. In a lot of cases I think the more skillful thing is to say a lot with fewer, simpler words, and Murata has become a master of that.
I think the point of the conversation was to build more empathy toward 先生. From the cuts we already know that he’s not doing great mentally, and this gives us some context. It seems a bit heavy-handed (it kind of reminds me of the トリプル sex scene in that sense), and who knows how reliable an overheard conversation between two strangers is, but it makes the upcoming betrayal even more tragic. For 先生、it seems possible that the strongest human connection he’s ever experienced came from 直子’s nursing. As twisted as 直子 and 先生’s relationship was, based on what they did together (and of course the title of the story), 先生 likely saw 直子 as a mother figure more than a sexual partner. Then one can draw the parallel that 直子, in order to defend herself from her mother’s potential anger, threw 先生 away without a second thought just like his own mother had done when he was a child.
The line that really stood out to me this week was 「私は先生がとても欲しがっている餌で彼を支配したのだ」. It’s clear that 直子 desires control over people. In fact, she barely even considers other people “people”. If I understood (and am remembering) correctly, the first time she felt control over 先生 was when she killed the first moth. In the last few pages, when we see a moth for the second time, she literally has her mother under her foot. Maybe 直子‘s desire for control over people mirrors her mother’s desire for control over her environment.
If you consider this line from the frame of reference of a manipulative 直子 and a broken 先生, then I think your translation is correct from a language perspective but might not be the ground truth due to an unreliable narrator. Over the course of the whole story we get absolutely nothing from 先生’s perspective. I have no idea how he viewed the relationship, but I doubt he saw it as the same sort of detached mutual masturbation that 直子 claims it was here. In fact, I don’t even think 直子 really believes it, but rather uses it as an excuse to help justify her betrayal to herself.
The short stories seem to be hit or miss for me. The misses haven’t been all that bad, but of the five short stories we’ve read now, I found 殺人出産 and 余命 outstanding while トリプル、清潔な結婚, and 授乳 were ok. I might have liked this one more if my comprehension were better. It was certainly different. I wonder if reading the next two stories might offer more insight to the themes that this one brought up. The four 殺人出産 stories seemed to go together nicely, but with a short story collection you never know if the stories are tied together thematically or if it’s mostly for publishing convenience.
I think Murata seems to have a thing for vague-ish endings. The one’s I’ve read all seem to end in the middle of the action. The only real clean-cut one that I remember reading so far is 余命.
This aspect is actually one of my favorite about 村田沙耶香 as an author. There is no break in the unreliability of narration (the narrator doesn’t suddenly know too much, wonder accurately and in a very reflected way about what other people are thinking etc), and all we get is pure observation, and information about the narrator’s thought processes only. And everything that isn’t speech is somehow steeped in the narrator’s disinterest and contempt.
Also I’d forgotten that we actually got a name for 直子. Oops.
Your comments are really in-depth for someone who is complaining about their comprehension!
I really like your portrait of the protag. While I was writing my own post, I was hesitant to use an adjective “malicious” because I was worried it’s exaggerating, but now I wouldn’t be
Hmm, maybe I used a wrong word? It has to do with that “slice-of-life” thing.
コンビニ人間 - protag decides to continue to work as a cashier
殺人出産 - protag decides to become a breeder
トリプル - protag has to deal with her own repulsion to couples
清潔な結婚 - ooops your attempt of your marriage being clean didn’t work
It’s a little simplifying maybe but my point is… um, that there was some point. While here I had this feeling of everybody just drifting through their miserable lives.
Of course it helps that I know that stories in 殺人出産 had a common theme, while here I don’t see a theme yet. So like you said:
Anyway, your post was really great and it had a lot of nice insights
Haha I think I focused extra hard in the last week in an attempt to make up for it. Also the nice thing about finishing late in the week is that I have everyone else’s comments to give me some ideas.
I get what you mean. I’m still a bit hesitant to condemn her as much as she might deserve, because as a middle-schooler she’s really still the victim. She comes from a dysfunctional home and according to any court of law (American at least, I’m not sure about Japanese or other countries), she was sexually assaulted by her tutor. Like you said, everybody is just drifting through their miserable lives.
And I see what you mean by the vagueness of this ending compared to others. The others may have stopped in the middle of the action leaving us with some questions and wondering what happens from there, but this is the first one where it doesn’t feel conclusive at least in some sense. (Unless you decide to interpret the ending as 直子 deciding to kill her mother, which I think is a bit extreme but not impossible given the ambiguity.)
Congratulations on your translation by the way! That’s definitely a huge accomplishment. I don’t know if I could ever muster the patience (and as @Belthazar and @softlyraining might remember from コンビニ人間 live readings, probably not the talent either haha). Too bad I don’t speak Polish.
Edit: Totally forgot to mark some big spoilers. Oops
I agree with @jhol here. A lot of beginner writers get the feeling that they need to use complicated language in their writing, but they eventually move past that. (Not that more advanced writers don’t/can’t use complex writing; it’s more like they develop a better sense of their style and learn when/how to incorporate it.)
Once again, everyone’s comments here are insightful and really helped me to figure out my own feelings re: the ending. I agree that 直子 is both young/unreliable, so she might be downplaying how she feels re: the end of her relationship with her tutor. That being said, I think her anger towards her mother might be due to how much they’re alike. She criticizes her mother’s behavior towards her father, but what about her own toward her tutor? She says that she realizes that they didn’t have a deep relationship; is this her realizing that she had her own childish thoughts once she was in a relationship with someone? 直子 seems to enjoy observing the messes in other people’s lives, but once she has a mess of her own, that joy is nowhere to be found. She reasons her way out of acknowledging her actual feelings. If we were just using one another, then us no longer see one another isn’t a big deal; there’s no mess left behind. But of course there is, and who was the one who brought that mess to 直子’s attention? Her messy, childish mother, who finally acted in a motherly way toward her. How can 直子 feel superior toward her mother, now that she was put in the position of being “protected” by her? I think that’s why she crushes her mother’s breast with her foot: she’s taking out all of her feelings on her mother, the one who acted as the catalyst that brought everything to light.
Admittedly, these are all thoughts that I just came up with as I read through the comments and went back over the story in my head. I agree it’s not as strong as some of her later work, but this is also one of her earlier stories, so I can’t be too harsh a critic. After thinking some details over, I do find myself liking the story more. I have no clue how I’d rank it among her other short stories, though that’s an interesting idea. It’s honestly going to be tough to beat out 余命 for me: so short, yet so strong.
With how long it’s taken me to finish this first story, I think I’m going to end up pulling a double 村田 with 地球星人. Time to press on with コイビト (which is even longer…).
Glad we’re still getting your responses even if they’re a bit late!
コイビト actually reads a lot faster—the language is a bit easier and (at least I think) it’s more of a page-turner. I’m a bit behind in the last story myself as I sprint to finish Kubikiri Cycle before Kagami no Koujou starts but folks seem to be enjoying it so far. I’m super excited for 地球星人!
I feel compelled to respond. I enjoy 村田’s work, of course, but what I love most is the level of discussion that stems from it. The community keeps me coming back, and getting the chance to participate in the discussions (even if late) keeps me motivated to finish reading.