Advanced Japanese Book Club // Now reading: 海辺のカフカ・Next: 狼と香辛料

It seems like it’s 12 interconnected stories, so hopefully at least the individual chunks are digestable!

And yeah, the summary’s tip-off that the start of the sample was talking about China and the terracotta army helped me contextualize the difficult vocab. It seems like maybe if you can track whatever specific topic he’s digging into it might not be too bad, but otherwise, who knows…

I noticed it’s even got a 引用 ・ 参考文献 section at the back…

I’ll just go ahead and nominate Panorama Island since I talked about it.

パノラマ島綺譚

(also spelled パノラマ島奇談)
Author: 江戸川乱歩

Summary

Japanese

日本の探偵小説界に大きな足跡を残した江戸川乱歩の作品。貧乏小説家の人見廣介と大富豪の菰田源三郎はうり二つであった。源三郎が死んだことにより廣介は成りすましを考える。果たしてそれはうまく実行され、念願の芸術を完成させるためある島をパノラマ島へ大改造してしまう。目くるめく壮大で華麗な島。やがて完成間際というとき、源三郎の妻が疑念を抱く。果たして夫は本物の夫なのか。想像の極地のパノラマ島で起こったこととは……

English (technically of the manga adaptation but I'm not sure it matters)

Hitomi Hirosuke enters the Showa era as a poor novelist dreaming of leaving his mark on the world. His latest story is rejected by his editor but Hitomi finds a new way to make his dream a reality. A school friend, a wealthy, rural family head, dies suddenly. Hitomi, who has always bared a striking resemblance to his former friend, concocts a plan to “resurrect” Genzaburo Komoda and take his place. He plans to use the Komoda fortune to realize his dream; constructing an island paradise of excess and debauchery.

Length: My copy is 136 pages or so
Category: Hard (it’s from the 1920s)

Availability

amazon.co.jp
one of the paid Bookwalker options
Aozora version (on bookwalker) - FREE!

Personal Opinion

I wanted to nominate an Edogawa Ranpo book for the club, and this is a standalone novel of about the right length that’s the highest on my priorities list of stuff to read by him. I’m pretty sure hearing about the manga adaptation is how Ranpo came onto my radar in the first place, and the afterword in a Ranpo collection I read talked quite a bit about Panorama Island as well.

I haven’t read this particular book yet, but Ranpo in general seems like a great fit for the book club, since his writing can be complex but gripping.

Pros and Cons for the Book Club

Pros

  • Prominent standalone work from a major author of mysteries and horror
  • There’s a gorgeous-looking manga adaptation
  • a good length, pre-divided into short chunks
  • one site calls it a 幻想的でおどろおどろしい世界を描いた不思議な物語 which sounds cool
  • there’s at least one English translation

Cons

  • Ranpo’s writing can tend to be lurid, and reading a little deeper into the synopsis than what I posted, it sounds like it could be pretty messed up in places. It might not be for everyone in the book club, especially without someone having read it already to provide exact content warnings.
  • It’s possible there’s other Ranpo books out there that could be a better fit.

Pictures

First Three Pages of Chapter One



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

4 Likes

Hey hey! I can join if you folks point me toward an English translation, at this point I still require “training wheels” to read, I read in both languages side-by-side and sloooowwwwwllllyyyyy, and if you accept me I will have hundreds of questions for the next 2-3 books, but after that I think I’ll be able to mostly read like ABC regulars. I’m going for the trial-by-fire approach.

I have no nominations, and for voting, I’m open to bribery peer recommendations

6 Likes

Can confirm that Wikipedia is not lying about his writing style. It is… intensely confusing. I read his Akutagawa prize winning book 道化師の蝶, and wrote about my impressions here: The Akutagawa Prize Reading Challenge - #45 by Myria

Not trying to discourage anyone, and actually I am also interested in reading 文字渦 at some point. But it’ll probably be a struggle, content-wise.

5 Likes

Nausicaä. It’s got an English translation. :grinning:

2 Likes

Haaaa yes I remember that. I didn’t realize it was the same author. I’ve updated my vote to “significant effort” then >_<

Reading various reviews, it seems that the writing style itself is fairly straightforward (several people say it’s 読みやすい), but the content, the story or lack thereof, is difficult to understand. Probably not for everyone, but a lot of people seem to enjoy it regardless.

Some quotes from amazon/bookmeter reviews highlighting the difficulty

ゲーム、アニメ、進化論、聖書、仏典あらゆる理屈を混ぜ合わせてでっちあげたエンターテイメントだと思います。(…) お読みになる時はPCの検索を立ち上げておくことをおススメです。

読み易いが、楽しむためには教養が必要。(…)私のような教養に欠ける人間が、本書を楽しむにはハードルが高過ぎたようだ。

おそらくこの本の10%も理解してないんだろうな。

理解ができているかは自信無いけど比較的読みやすかったかな。

ワクワクしながら読み進めた。全然わからなかったし大変時間がかかったけれど。

etc.

5 Likes

I would like to nominate 金閣寺 by 三島由紀夫, but it looks like I would have to write up a nomination, eh?

1 Like

Yeah I think so, but there’s a template in the wiki post at the top of the thread that’s copy-and-pastable, which made it pretty easy!

Worth noting though, it looks like there’s already a work by Mishima that’s been nominated (here) and is active for a vote, 午後の曳航. I don’t know that that precludes nominating another, but it might inform your decision to nominate or not nominate.

1 Like

Thanks, I didn’t notice before that 午後の曳航 was a 三島 book. I started to make a nomination for 金閣寺 anyway, but then I realized…

  1. It’s almost 400 pages and probably very difficult reading.
  2. There doesn’t appear to be a Bookwalker edition for eBook readers.

So I’m leaning towards not nominating for now, although I still personally want to read it. Maybe I’ll end up posting it at some point in the future.

4 Likes

No, it doesn’t. But:

That might be a bigger issue :wink: If it really classifies as “hard” (meaning ~15 pages per week), that would take us ~26 weeks which we should avoid at all cost. Maybe we could get used to the writing and increase the speed after a while, but I would not want to bet on it. Therefore I think it might be safer to read his shorter book 午後の曳航 first in order to get to know his writing style :sweat_smile:

I’ll be posting our next poll tonight (maybe in 12 hours roundabout) so if anybody wants to nominate anything, it’s last orders now!

And everybody: please don’t forget to rate the difficulties of the books, especially the new ones :blush:

2 Likes

I totally agree with this Nicole! I will vote for 午後の曳航 in the poll. :+1:

2 Likes

Here we go again :wink:

Looks like it’s time to think about our next book club pick!

Please have a look at the List of Proposed Books section in the first post for details on each book. Every book has a difficulty associated with it (based on the book club members’ votes, thus subjective) out of 5, where 1 means “no effort at all” and 5 means “so difficult that my head might explode”. The difficulty is annotated in the poll in square brackets after the book’s name.

Do not rely solely on difficulty when making a choice. Please have a look at the nomination posts and text samples if you haven’t already.

Expected reading pace: The proposals fall into two categories: Fast, and Hard. We aim to read fast books at 30-50 pages and hard books at ~15 pages per week (that number might vary a bit throughout, depending on the book’s breaks and chapters). For manga, depending on difficulty and chapter length, we will probably read one to several chapters per week. The pick’s exact reading schedule will be negotiated before the book club kicks off.

Start of Book Club : We will start the next book on September 18th (after a one-week break).

Poll duration : The poll will be closed within a week (and most likely before that), whenever it looks like voting has dried up. You can choose up to 5 options .

  • Fast: 86―エイティシックス― [2.67]
  • Fast: クォンタムデビルサーガ アバタールチューナーⅠ [3.29]
  • Fast: 狼と香辛料 [2.67]
  • Fast: マスカレード・ホテル [1.89]
  • Fast: 風の谷のナウシカ [3.13]
  • Fast: 海辺のカフカ (上) [2.31]
  • Fast: 騎士団長殺し 第1部 [2.33]
  • Fast: 化物語(上) [2.8]
  • Fast: 虐殺器官 - Genocidal Organ [3]
  • Fast/Hard: 薬屋のひとりごと [3.5]
  • Fast: 乳と卵 - Breasts and Eggs [3]
  • Hard: 檸檬 [3.6]
  • Hard: 風立ちぬ [3]
  • Hard: 午後の曳航 [3]
  • Hard: 文字渦 [3.83]
  • Hard: パノラマ島綺譚 [3.67]

0 voters

2 Likes

Ahem. Just in case I haven’t made this clear enough:

The goal of the voting process is to find the most popular book. The most popular book. That means ONE book. Not seven :joy_cat:

Interestingly enough, each of those books has a different combination of voters :eyes:

16 Likes

We can just read them all in order. :crazy_face:

5 Likes

Let me vote for the ones with 2 vote then :stuck_out_tongue:

Edit: jk, I broke the tie. But I guess there are still members to vote.

5 Likes

giphy

3 Likes

I think the voting activity has pretty much died down by now, and so I would like to declare the winner of our poll: 乳と卵 ! :tada:

This book is very short (133 pages), and as it is a modern book, I think that we can read it quite fast.
For participation information and schedule discussion, please see its home thread:

where I’ve already suggested a reading schedule.

If we follow this schedule, we will need to vote again before we even started reading that book, and so I would like to adopt the Beginner Book Club’s rule that when a short book wins, the book in second place is read right after it without another voting process.

Sounds good? The only drawback is that in our case we have a tie in second place :grin:

Therefore, please help me decide which of the two second-place books to pick as our second-place winner! Everybody gets only one vote (for hopefully obvious reasons :wink:).

  • Fast: 虐殺器官 - Genocidal Organ [3]
  • Hard: パノラマ島綺譚 [3.67]

0 voters

5 Likes

But I voted for both, and I’d do it again! :cry:

5 Likes

Vote for パノラマ島綺譚 rodan, since it’s on aozora we can wait longer between having to buy books
We can always read Genocidal Organ later

To be honest if I were to vote for one it would probably be Genocidal Organ out of not wanting something I nominated to supercede something that was already nominated for a long time (especially by my own vote), and also because it would be funny if this poll tied again, but I maintain staunch neutrality on this one!

4 Likes