Advanced Japanese Book Club // Next: アンダーグラウンド

I’m enjoying so far kind of belatedly (in more ways than one) participating in a book club, so there’s a couple of books I think I’d like to nominate:

文字渦

Author: 円城塔 (Toh EnJoe)

Summary

Japanese

昔、文字は本当に生きていたのだと思わないかい?
――秦の始皇帝の兵馬俑から発掘された三万の漢字「文字渦」
――硯のうえで文字を闘わせる、いにしえの言語遊戯「闘字」
――漢字の領土争いにルビの反乱! Unicode宇宙大戦「誤字」
――さらには、恐ろしい大量殺字事件までもが起こり「幻字」

English

(I couldn’t find an English summary so this is just my attempt at translating the Japanese summary)

Long ago, characters were really alive, don’t you think?
– 30,000 kanji excavated from the first Qin emperor’s Terra Cotta Army “文字渦”
– characters made to battle on an inkstone, an ancient word game “闘字”
– Kanji’s fight for territory - Ruby’s resistance! Unicode Space Battle “誤字”
– Furthermore, it even goes so far as horrific mass “litercide” “幻字”

Length: my copy is about 300 pages even, bookwalker has 348
Category: probably hard, not due to age but difficulty

Availability

amazon.co.jp
Bookwalker

Personal Opinion

This is next in one of my queues - I think I found it by looking for past SF award winners. It sounds extremely interesting, and also basically impossible to fully translate, so I’m super curious about it.
I also think it would be funny to read a book about characters on a site for learning characters. That could help mitigate the hard-looking parts since it’s a topic we’re clearly all interested in.

Pros and Cons for the Book Club

Pros

  • It’s about 文字 so it would be extra appropriate to read on this site.
  • Won the 日本SF大賞, a major Japanese science-fiction prize
  • Seems like it’s neatly divided into 12 episodes of some sort, so portioning weeks might be easy.

Cons

  • The topic and style might make it hard to read. I suspect it’s loaded with references (esp. tech/science ones) that might be hard to get, and interesting but confusing subversions of how characters are normally used.
  • Wikipedia quotes someone about the author: “His complicated narrative structures are the subject of heated discussions and have even evoked harsh reviews calling his work ‘indigestible’, ‘sleep-inducing,’ and ‘reader-unfriendly’” so… there’s that.
  • A bit on the long side for something I can’t 100% vouch for (since I haven’t read it yet).
  • I don’t think there is (or possibly even could be?) an English translation.

Pictures

First Three Pages of Chapter One



Additional Pages

Given the subject matter, there’s ample opportunity for playful textual things, and flipping through the physical copy shows unusual things like these:


Difficulty Poll

How much effort would you need to read this book?

  • No effort at all
  • Minimal effort
  • Moderate effort
  • Significant effort
  • So much effort my head might explode
  • I don’t know
0 voters
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