Intermediate Japanese Book Club // Now Reading: 佐賀のがばいばあちゃん・Next: Spy x Family

Home thread is up: Spy x Family (Intermediate Book Club)

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おばちゃんたちのいるところ

Author: 松田青子
Page count: 261
Natively: Not listed yet, but I have requested for it to be added.

Summary

Japanese

追いつめられた現代人のもとへ、おばちゃん(幽霊)たちが一肌脱ぎにやってくる。失業中の男に牡丹灯籠を売りつけるセールスレディ、シングルマザーを助ける子育て幽霊、のどかに暮らす八百屋お七や皿屋敷のお菊……そして、彼女たちをヘッドハントする謎の会社員・汀。嫉妬や怨念こそが、あなたを救う!? 胸の中のもやもやが成仏する愉快な怪談集。

English

A busybody aunt who disapproves of hair removal; a pair of door-to-door saleswomen hawking portable lanterns; a cheerful lover who visits every night to take a luxurious bath; a silent house-caller who babysits and cleans while a single mother is out working. Where the Wild Ladies Are is populated by these and many other spirited women—who also happen to be ghosts. This is a realm in which jealousy, stubbornness, and other excessive “feminine” passions are not to be feared or suppressed, but rather cultivated; and, chances are, a man named Mr. Tei will notice your talents and recruit you, dead or alive (preferably dead), to join his mysterious company.

In this witty and exuberant collection of linked stories, Aoko Matsuda takes the rich, millennia-old tradition of Japanese folktales—shapeshifting wives and foxes, magical trees and wells—and wholly reinvents them, presenting a world in which humans are consoled, guided, challenged, and transformed by the only sometimes visible forces that surround them.

Availability

Paperback (Amazon)
eBook (Kindle)

Personal Opinion

I really like the premise of the book: a modern and feminist retelling of traditional youkai stories. I have been meaning to learn more about youkai and when I came across this book, I thought this might be even more fun than reading (about) the original stories. Not only could we discuss the stories in this book, but we could also discuss the original versions and what choices the author made when ‘updating’ them to modern times. The brief story descriptions (which some might consider spoilers, so I have hidden them in the summary sections) look very whimsical, so I think it’d be an entertaining read. The fact that there are 17 individual stories also means it would be a very forgiving book; if you get behind, you can just skip a few stories without losing the plot. Finally, there is an English translation available, which (I hope) lowers the threshold for people to join from the Beginner’s Book Club.

Pros and Cons for the Book Club

Pros

  • Looks like a fun, light read
  • An opportunity to get better acquainted with youkai.
  • English translation available
  • 17 stories, so easy scheduling :wink:

Cons

  • You might have to be familiar with youkai to get the most out of it?
  • The ‘feminist’ angle might turn some people off? Though I don’t think it’s feminist in a preachy sense

Pictures

First Three Pages of Chapter One



Additional Pages



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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I’m very interested, thank you for finding this! :smiley:

On the author:

AOKO MATSUDA is a writer and translator. In 2013, her debut book, Stackable , was nominated for the Yukio Mishima Prize and the Noma Literary New Face Prize. Her novella, The Girl Who Is Getting Married , was published by Strangers Press in the U.K. in 2016. In 2019, her short story “The Woman Dies” was short-listed for a Shirley Jackson Award. She has translated work by Karen Russell, Amelia Gray, and Carmen Maria Machado into Japanese.

On this book (it has been translated into English):

“These ghosts are not the monstrous, vengeful spirits of the original stories; they are real people with agency and personalities, finally freed from the restraints placed on living women. Funny, beautiful, surreal and relatable, this is a phenomenal book.” —Claire Kohda Hazleton, The Guardian

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@NicoleRauch What is the maximum number of nominations we want at any one time? I have two more up my sleeve, but I don’t want to be greedy :grin:

They’ve both been translated into English, which I take to be an indication that they enjoy some amount of popularity and appeal (otherwise why bother translating them?). But I am wary of nominating too many such books, because for some people the joy of reading in Japanese may lie partly in reading works that would otherwise be inaccessible to them.

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I understand this to mean there are 10 available slots, so I don’t think you need to hold back :slight_smile:

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Thanks for the extra info! Especially this bit:

I think the ‘feminism’ of this book lies in the fact that women can be well-rounded, non-conventional characters; I don’t think it’s feminist in the sense that it’s preachy!

:eyes: Buckle up, people!

Welp, turns out one of the books I had my eye one is a level 49 book on Natively :sweat_smile: The sample looked pretty doable, but I guess it gets way more difficult later on!

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嵐のピクニック

Author: 本谷 有希子
Page count: 208 pages
Natively: Not listed yet, but I have requested for it to be added.

Summary

Japanese

第7回大江健三郎賞受賞作! 優しいピアノ教師の一瞬の狂気(「アウトサイド」)、ボディビルにのめりこむ主婦(「哀しみのウェイトトレーニー」)、カーテンの膨らみから広がる妄想(「私は名前で呼んでる」)、猿山の猿が起こす奇跡(「マゴッチギャオの夜、いつも通り」)……奇想天外、前代未聞、野間文芸新人賞作家の想像力がはじけ飛ぶ、13の“アウトサイド”な短篇集!

English

A housewife takes up bodybuilding and sees radical changes to her physique–which her workaholic husband fails to notice. A boy waits at a bus stop, mocking businessmen struggling to keep their umbrellas open in a typhoon–until an old man shows him that they hold the secret to flying. A woman working in a clothing boutique waits endlessly on a customer who won’t come out of the fitting room–and who may or may not be human. A newlywed notices that her husband’s features are beginning to slide around his face–to match her own.

In these eleven* stories, the individuals who lift the curtains of their orderly homes and workplaces are confronted with the bizarre, the grotesque, the fantastic, the alien–and, through it, find a way to liberation. The English-language debut of one of Japan’s most fearlessly inventive young writers.

* The English translation contains 11 stories; the Japanese version contains 13.

Availability

Paperback (Amazon)
eBook (Kindle)

Personal Opinion

When I read reviews of this book, I got the sense that this is a book that could yield a lot of (literary) discussion, because there is an overarching theme: people losing themselves within relationships and their struggle to reclaim their identity. It could be fun to compare the stories and see how this theme is fleshed out in different ways. The fact that it’s a short story collection means that it should be easy to skip one (or more) stories if you’re behind.

Pros and Cons for the Book Club

Pros

  • Akutagawa Prize-winning author
  • Stories that are surreal and absurd.
  • English translation available, containing some of these stories
  • 13 stories, so easy scheduling :wink:

Cons

  • Absurd stories can sometimes be more challenging in a foreign language.

Pictures

First Three Pages of Chapter One



Additional Pages

The first three pages of the second story.



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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Like @omk3 correctly deduced, it is 20 (simply because a single poll can only handle 20 entries, so that’s a bit of a natural boundary :sweat_smile:)

I personally wouldn’t worry too much about this. I mean, sure, it is very interesting to be able to read books that almost nobody else can read because of language barriers, but then again I take the Intermediate club to be a kind of learning stage or stepping stone anyways, so I always thought the existence of an English translation might be a pro for more people than it might be a con for others.

Which one would it be? Maybe I or somebody else can look into it beforehand? Please also keep in mind that there are a lot of books on Natively that don’t have many reviews so the level might be wrong after all…

…runs off to check Natively…

OK there are not many L49 contenders that fit our page limit. Given you don’t want to propose classics like Natsume Souseki or Tanizaki Jun’ichirou, the only one left is the Ueno駅 book then, maybe? I would love to read that one (I actually own it already fwiw) but the review on Natively really surprised me (and I believe that person knows what they are talking about :sweat_smile:). So in that case, maybe you should rather propose it in the Advanced Club instead :wink:

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Yep, that one. I thought the premise was really interesting and it really didn’t look that challenging when I checked the Amazon sample (and it’s also pretty short), but that review made me think twice!

The last time I tried an Advanced book it did not go very well… So I don’t think I’m the right person to make the nomination, as I can’t promise I’ll be able to keep on reading!

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That’s the same person who graded 穴 at L38 and commented it was an easy read, right? :flushed:
Ueno駅 must be incredibly difficult then…

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Yeah, it’s the same person :cold_sweat: That’s exactly what I thought as well…

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Ueno駅 (JR上野駅公園口, right?) is so, so good. I read the recent English translation as part of a different book club back in February.

But I could see how the difficulty rating is justified. There are many references to Buddhism and esoteric religious references, forward and backward jumps in time and perspective, things that give the impression of floatiness, timelessness.

That said, I also bought a Japanese copy to eventually read lol.

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Oh thanks for the full title! Was too lazy to copy it over properly :innocent:

Glad to hear you liked it! I also heard good things about it, that’s why I bought it at some point. Apart from the story, I also think the author herself is interesting as she is a citizen of South Korea but was born and raised (and still lives) in Japan, and also writes in Japanese.

It must be really good, as it won a prize (geared towards translated books).

Yeah, I have a hunch that’s where the emphasis belongs :upside_down_face:

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I actually know the English translator for this! She’s the wife of a friend, was very nice to see the translation get so much praise! I’d prefer to read it in Japanese first but definitely plan to read the translation as well.

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:exploding_head: That’s truly amazing!

It’s truly a small world haha.

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