The Akutagawa Prize Reading Challenge

That makes so much more sense! I didn’t notice the different colors or the 予選 designation, but now that you pointed it out, it’s clear.

I saw that trans woman author and am hoping to be able to track one of their works down. It also pleases me that they were put in the women section… not always a given with Japan.

From wiki:

Yes, I will be looking for this author’s work. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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Ah! Nevermind then. I should have actually checked what those data were :sweat_smile:

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Poor Dazai Osamu, in his times it was impossible to be nominated in a row.

が、前回候補に挙がった作家や投票2票以下の作家は候補としないという当時の条件のために太宰は候補とならなかった。
(https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/芥川龍之介賞#太宰治の落選について)

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I kind of want to keep track of authors I’m interested in / give some background info to some of them:

2008, 楊逸(やん いー), First foreign author (whose native language is not Japanese) to be awarded the Akutagawa Prize. She is of Chinese descent, now has Japanese nationality.

1996, 柳美里, author of Korean descent. Her nationality is Korean, but she was born in Japan and her mother tongue is Japanese. She’s part of the 在日 minority.

1992, 多和田葉子 was already mentioned; author writing in Japanese and German, currently lives in Berlin.

1990, 小川洋子, author of 博士の愛した数式, because I really liked her writing style.

1975, 中上健次. From Wikipedia: He is well known as the first, and so far the only, post-war Japanese writer to identify himself publicly as a 部落民, a member of one of Japan’s long-suffering outcaste groups.

藤野千夜 sounds very interesting as well.

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Double posting
I found a book from the 80年代 I want to read! The author is called ()良枝(やんじ). She won the 100th Akutagawa Prize with her novel 由煕(ゆひ).

Yi Yanji was the second zainichi writer to win the Akutagawa Prize in 1989 with the work Yuhi, a story about a tormented journey of self-discovery for a young zainichi woman [who] travels to Korea to realize that her “own” country is a foreign place and her “own” language is an alien tongue, while the language dearest to her is inextricably tied to a monolithic culture and race to which she does not belong.

The comments on bookmeter sound pretty intense as well.

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triple posting
I finally finished 乳と卵!

The book is comprised of two stories, 乳と卵 (80%) and あなたたちの恋愛は瀕死 (20%).
It’s really short, about 140 pages, so I should’ve been able to finish it in a few days, but the second story failed to catch me at first, so I took my time. It did get easier to read at the end, though.

Both stories were very interesting and had some interesting themes that got me thinking. You get an interesting perspective into difficult family dynamics. The endings of both stories were kind of sudden, and in typical literary „what just happened, what is the meaning of this“ style.
They provide some sort of resolution and 解決, but in the „I don’t really know how to make sense of this“ way. Not even in the コンビニ人間 way, where I had very conflicted, but comparatively はっきりした feelings. In this book, it was more like „okay, so that just happened“. But maybe that’s just me :smiley:
I really would love to hear other people’s opinions on the ending(s).

The narration was all very thought-focused and inner monologue-focused, which made it kind of tiring to read, but it was an interesting experience. It’s definitely good practice to get used to the way people speak (in incomplete sentences, half sentence after half sentence, etc.)
It reminded me of 村田沙耶香 in a way. The stories have similar themes (not necessarily referring to コンビニ人間 here, more 村田’s other, more feminist works), and the feeling of being inside the protagonist’s head and hearing all their thoughts reminded me of 村田‘s writing style, but it’s definitely distinctly different.

The sentences in this book (in the first story) are very long. It is a constant stream-of-consciousness, inner monologue kind of writing style.

This is one sentence:

巻子は「いい部屋やん」とひとこと放ち、「そうかしらん」と冷蔵庫を開けて、作り置きの濃く出すぎて、これは茶というよりはもう黒の域、の、麦茶を硝子コップに注ぎながらわたしが答えると、バッグを置いておでこに張りついた前髪を手のひらで撫であげて、「見てこれえっらい汗、冷房より水浴びたほうが早いわなあこれなあ」と云って手で扇ぎながら部屋の突き当たりの大きめの窓に向かって行けば、「え、ベランダないのん、この家ベランダないのんか」と驚き、「洗濯もんはどないするんよ」とこっちを振り返る、「そう、おそろしいことにこの家ベランダついてないのです、洗濯機はこの屋上にあって、洗濯もんもそこで干す」と答えると、へえ、と巻子は感心したように目を開いて、窓の外からの景色をひと通り見渡すと、水道借りるわ、手洗うわ、と云って洗面所へ行き、水の勢いすっごいやん、シャワーもこれ出してええ? と大きな声で聞くのでどうぞ、そして緑子はといえば部屋の端っこを陣取って、何度か座りの位置を変えながら、ここ、というところに自分のリュックサックを固定させて、その中から小さなタオルを取り出しておでこの汗を丁寧に押さえながら吸い取らせてる。

As you can see, there’s also some light 関西弁 going on (in the first story).

There isn’t much happening story-wise. There is stuff happening, but it’s not a very elaborate story. Of course there doesn’t have to. The depth really is in the inner monologues. The story, or rather, the feelings the author wants to convey with her book, are conveyed through the thoughts and feelings of the protagonist, rather than through big events.

Some of the themes: women struggling with body image issues, single mother struggles, having a dysfunctional relationship with one’s daughter struggles, puberty, feeling like you will never become the kind of woman society expects you to become. Those sort of themes. Basically what you expect from a feminist author like 川上, and as expected from the title.
There’s also some rather explicit descriptions of female bodily functions.

There were some really interesting conversations and flashbacks happening in the protagonist’s mind as well, seemingly unrelated to the story at hand, but very interesting and relevant nonetheless.

I really liked this conversation that the protagonist recalls about breast augmentation and makeup and the patriarchy:

胸おおきくしたいわあ、とある女の子が云って、わたしじゃなくてそこにはもうひとり別の女の子がおって、その女の子がそれに対してネガティブな物言いをしたんやった、え、でもそれってさ、結局男のために大きくしたいってそういうことなんじゃないの、とかなんとか。男を楽しませるために自分の体を改造するのは違うよね的なことを冷っとした口調で云ったのだったかして、すると胸大きくしたいの女の子は、そういうことじゃなくて胸は自分の胸なんだし、男は関係なしに胸ってこの自分の体についてるわけでこれは自分自身の問題なのよね、もちろん体に異物を入れることはちゃんと考えなきゃいけないとは思うけれど、とかなんとか答えて、すると、そうかな、その胸が大きくなればいいなあっていうあなたの素朴な価値観がそもそも世界にはびこるそれはもうわたしたちが物を考えるための前提であるといってもいいくらいの男性的精神を経由した産物でしかないのよね、じっさい、あなたは気がついてないだけで、とかなんだかもっともらしいことを云って、胸大きくしたい女の子はそれに対して、なんだって単純なこのこれここについてるわたしの胸をわたしが大きくしたいっていうこの単純な願望をなんでそんな見たことも触ったこともない男性精神とかってもんにわざわざ結びつけようとするわけ? もしその、男性主義だっけ、男根精神だっけかが、あなたの云うとおりにあるんだとしてもよ、わたしがそれを経由してるんならあなたのその考えだって男性精神ってもんを経由してるってことになるんじゃないの、わたしとあなたで何が違うの、と答えたわけだ、するとその冷っと女子は、だーかーら、自分の価値観がいったいどこから発生してるのかとかそういうことを問題にしつつ疑いを持つっていうか飽くまでそれを自覚してるのと自覚してないのとは大違いだって云ってんのよ、とこう云って、その批判に対して胸大きく女子は、まあ何がそんなに違うのかあたしさっぱりわかんないけれど、わたしのこの今の小さい胸にわたし自身不満があること、そして大きな胸に憧れのようなものがあることは最初から最後まであたしの問題だってこう云ってんのよ、それだけのことに男性精神云々をくっつけて話ややこしくしてんのはあなたで、あなたが実はその男性精神そのものなんじゃないの? 少なくともわたしは男とセックスしたりするとき、例えば揉まれるときなんかにああこの胸が大きくあって欲しかったこの男の興奮のために、なんてことは思わない、ってことははっきりわかってるって話よ、ただ自分ひとりでいるときに思うってそれだけよ、ぺったんでまったいらなこれになぜだか残念を感じてしまうだけのことで。すると冷っと女子は、だからその残念に思う気持ちこそがそもそもすっかり取り込まれてんのよ、その感慨を、その愁嘆を、そういう自分自身の欲望の出自を疑いもせずに胸が大きくなったらいいなあ! なんてぼんやりうっかり発言したりするのが不用意極まりないっていうか、腹立たしいっていうか無知というかなんていうかさ、とさらに冷っ、が増した声で冷り女子は静かに云うと、は、じゃあさ、あなたがしてるその化粧は男性精神に毒されたこの世界におかれましてどういう位置づけになんのですか、その動機はいったい何のためにしてる化粧になるの、化粧に対する疑いは? と胸女子が云えば、これ? これは自分のためにやってんのよ、自分のテンション上げるためにやってんの、と冷っと女子、それを受けて胸派女子は、だからあたしの胸だって自分のために大きくしたいってそういう話じゃないの? あんたのそのそのばちばちに盛った化粧が自分のためだっていうのがあんたのさっきの理屈に沿うんならね、だいたいおんなじ世界で生きててこっちは男根主義的な影響受けてますここは受けてませんって誰が決定するんだっつの。と鼻で笑えば、何云ってんのよまったく、化粧と豊胸はそもそもがまったく違うでしょうが、だいたい女の胸に強制的にあてがわれた歴史的過去における社会的役割ってもんを考えてみたことあるわけ? あなたのその胸を大きくしたいってんならまずあなたの胸が包括してる諸問題について考えるってことから始めなさいよって云ってんの、それに化粧はもともと魔よけで始まったもんなのよ、人間が魔物を恐れてこれを鎮めるために考えられた知恵なのよこれは人間の共同体としての、儀式なのよ。文化なの。大昔には男だって化粧やってるんだしだいたいあんたはそもそもわたしの云ってる問題点がまったく理解できてないわ、話にならない、と顎で刺すように云えば、は、じゃああんたのその生活諸々だけ男根の影響を受けずに全部魔よけの延長でやってるってこういうわけ、性別の関係しない文化であんたの行動だけは純粋な人間としての知恵ですってそういうわけかよ、なんじゃそら、大体女がなんだっつの。女なんかただの女だっつの。女であるあたしははっきりそう云わせてもらうっつの。まずあんたのそのわたしに対する今の発言をまず家に帰ってちくいち疑えっつの。それがあんたの信条でしょうが、は、阿呆らし、阿呆らしすぎて阿呆らしやの鐘が鳴って鳴りまくって鳴りまくりすぎてごんゆうて落ちてきよるわおまえのド頭に、とか云って、[…]



The second story, first of all, has shorter sentences. It’s not written in first person, but third person. The protagonist is simply referred to as 女.
I found the second story kind of difficult to get into after the ending of the first story, but when I read on and got used to it, it got more and more interesting. The themes of the second story are also very feminist, but in a different way. It’s more about things like casual sex, dating, relationships, and knowing your self-worth. Again, we have a „ok I’m not sure what just happened“ style ending :laughing: Maybe I’m just not well-versed enough in literature to see the deeper meaning behind the endings.
I really wish the second story went on for a bit longer. The ending was kind of sudden.

For a small teaser of what sort of themes the second story entails, here’s another conversation/monologue that stuck in my mind:

女にはもうひとり友人がいて、それを思い出し、彼女は決まった相手としか性交をしない女だった。
わたし、何かで読んだわよ。と彼女は自信たっぷりな顔をして言う。
適当な相手と適当な性交をしつづけるやつっていうのはね、ものすごく、なんていうのかしら、人間的にとんでもなく未熟なのよ。何かで読んでそのときわたしそうよ、ってすごく同意しちゃったもの。性交の相手をころころ変える人間はね、相手と最低限のレベルでも向かい合うことが、できないんじゃなくて、避けてんのよね。傷つくのが怖いんじゃなくて単に面倒くさがってんのよ。だから問題が起きたらすぐに別れて、で、さみしいからってまた次に行くでしょ、で、面倒くさいから問題が起きたらまたぱっと別れてそのくり返し。最大の事なかれ主義よ。そりゃあまともな本も読めなくなるわよ。だってなんにつけたって関係性において努力するってことを知らないんだもの。まじで猿みたいなもんよ。
女はそのときも、そっか。と言って[…]。そんな彼女のまともすぎる話をききながら、でも、わたしは知らない男とやってみたいのよ。なぜならばそれが本当はどんなことなのか、わたしにはわからないから。知らないっていうことがどういうものなのかを知ってみたいような気がするから。できることは本当にできることなのかを、自分の体を使って試してみたいような気持ちになって、苦しいから。それにあなたは馬鹿にするけど猿が本当はどうなのかもわからないし。だいたい、決まった相手とも、それから決まっていない相手とも性交することのないわたしは、あなたから見て、なんていうのかな、──合格してるのかしら? 人間として? と笑顔で言ってみることを想像して、やめて、冷たくなった紅茶の残りをがぶりと飲んだことを覚えている。[…]
女は自分の体がどれくらいの価値のあるものなのかもわからないし、でもわからないままでもそれをくるむ服を買うのは好き。

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oh no, isn’t triple posting a limit?

For what it’s worth, you actually got me interested after this review. Just maybe not in Japanese version. :joy: I was wary of it even earlier because of 関西弁, and reading about long sentences and stream-of-consciousness isn’t helping.
But my husband actually ordered the translation some time ago and it should arrive soon… and I was going to skip it, but now I’m reconsidering it. Especially since it will be on the shelf anyway.

I also have a soft spot for “explicit descriptions of female bodily functions”, so that’s a bonus.

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Thank you for freeing me! :smiley:

I would say the 関西弁 is the lesser of your worries, if you were to tackle the Japanese original.

But there’s no shame in enjoying Japanese 純文学 in your native language and reading some more accessible (language-wise and content-wise) 大衆向け novels for Japanese practice. :slight_smile:

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Technically, it’s won’t be native in this case (it didn’t get a Polish translation yet; so it’s just an English version; hence the waiting for the delivery), but well, it’s certainly a more accessible version :wink:

Anyway, yeah, it’s more or less where I am now. Sometimes I just want to read something and not necessarily spend a month on it. :sweat_smile:
But I do feel like a cheater, commenting on things I won’t read in Japanese. But since there isn’t much discussion and since it could be hard to get people read the same things simultaneously here, I guess it’s better than nothing? Maybe?

Well, at least in 乳と卵 case, it has a chance at winning Intermediate Book Club poll someday… Although now I’m wondering if it’s really intermediate level.

I did read the beginning of 推し、燃ゆ already though, and I guess this is my current ability limit. I do understand what’s going on (I hope), but it’s painfully slow and I have to re(re)read so many sentences. But I’m too curious about it. :wink:
Thankfully this one is also short (144 pages).

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Totally understandable! And no, I don’t think you’re a cheater - this thread is mainly meant to be about enjoying the books, not about studying. So commenting about the contents is fine no matter the language you read it in :slight_smile:

I had actually not thought about that until now, but I think it should be up to each individual whether they want to tick off a book only if they read it in Japanese or also when they read it in another language. Because like I said, let’s enjoy books together - that’s all :slight_smile:

I nominated it, and now I’m wondering about that as well :sweat_smile:

@Myria, what do you think? How would you rate its difficulty e.g. compared to 博士 (intermediate, but was perceived as quite hard) or to 雪国 (advanced, hard)?

Hey, that sounds amazing! I must say, whenever I start a new book I have such a hard time settling into the new writing style and vocabulary. I’m pretty sure it will get much easier for you once you have read a fair bit of it.

For some reason, most of the books on the list seem to be short (around the 150 page mark) - maybe because they are written by new authors? Anyway, I’m going to embrace that as it (hopefully) allows me to read moar bookz :star_struck:

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It’s not a “choose the book we’re going to read” type of poll, right? I’m supposed to vote for the books I’ve read. :sweat_smile:

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Yeah, right. This is not a normal book club, it’s more a tracking list (of books you read) for everybody’s personal use.

But of course, if there is enough interest for a book club for one of the books, then by all means :wink:

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All right, thanks. I was bit confused but I just realized there’s a “None of these so far” option so it should have been obvious. :sweat_smile: But with Konbini Ningen down, only 169 to go! lol

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Yay! :tada: You gotta start somewhere, right?

And don’t worry, I haven’t yet read any others except コンビニ either (but I’m working on it :upside_down_face:)

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I’m not @Myria, but the extracts they posted are much harder to read than 博士. In terms of stream of consciousness sentences, we had ハルヒ, which people found very hard. (Well, there was also the problem of the content, which is the polar opposite of this book :sweat_smile:)
Overall, probably too tough for the intermediate book club, especially that one sentence Myria posted. (Of course it depends of how prevalent those are)

In other news, I am now also sold on that book. I don’t know why the preview/description didn’t catch my interest before :sweat_smile:

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I found the writing style of 博士 rather straightforward; really looking forward to reading another 小川洋子 book!
乳と卵 is much harder, especially if you’re unfamiliar with more casual language. The long sentences require quite a bit of focus (I can’t even imagine how much effort it would take to break them down formally), and if you aren’t familiar with how people (natives) tell stories, with switching perspectives without explicitly naming the other party / without using pronouns, use of active vs passive voice, ていた vs た, use of ます in a subclause to indicate a quote, and so on, I would imagine it’s quite difficult to keep track of the sentences.

In 雪国 the difficulty for me was more about being able to imagine the scene. There were sudden time skips, and due to the story being set almost a hundred years ago, some things / scenes / objects were simply unfamiliar. So sometimes I wasn’t able to make sense of a passage even when reading it several times; other times I just couldn’t be bothered.
乳と卵 is set in modern times, which takes away one hurdle at least. However the sentences really are about 4x the length, which makes it quite annoying to reread passages.

It would probably be quite difficult for the intermediate book club. I think at an intermediate stage it’s probably more beneficial to read books with a clearer sentence structure where you can properly analyze the grammar and where any grammar / context questions have a clear(er) answer. Like 容疑者Xの献身 for example. Of course you could try that with 乳と卵 sentences as well, but most of this casual sentence structure is probably really difficult to formally explain. (I‘m not saying it’s guesswork, but it’s probably more intuition-based?) Of course there’s value in analyzing and studying this writing style as well, but depending on someone’s previous exposure to this sort of casual rambling that you would normally find in a YouTube vlog of someone complaining about work or telling a funny story about their friends, I would imagine it to be quite painful to get through. For people who prefer to reread and analyze sentences frequently, it would probably be a lot of work. As usual, it’s probably easiest to check the sample pages for yourself.

Obviously not every part of this book is as extreme as the snippets I posted, but in general the sentences really are remarkably long. It’s a constant feeling of „wow, this sentence is long, where does it even end?“ and „I want to reread this part but it takes ages to even find the start of the sentence“.

Edit: rereading some parts of the book though, I have to say, the writing style really is quite fun. You can imagine the conversations and her inner monologue really well.

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Actually, the reverse happened after all. I tried to continue reading yesterday, and I did read the sample part before buying, so I thought I was safe. But it actually got harder after the sample ended. I went from “I’m barely managing” to “I have absolutely no idea what’s going on”.
So I guess I’m postponing it until I get smarter.

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Interesting challenge :smiley:
I’m gonna join in and start with むらさきのスカートの女
I first know about it from a review of a book by the same author: Japanese Novel Review: あひる The Duck by Natsuko Imamura (今村夏子) – Japanese Book Club Cafe

むらさきのスカートの女 sounds interesting and I heard the words and grammar used are actually quite simple, that an N3 student would be able to read it without problem.

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Thanks for your judgements! I think I will shift it over to the Advanced Book Club then. (Although it will be a pretty quick read in that club, but what can you do :woman_shrugging:)

Oh, that’s sad to hear! Maybe you can suggest it in the intermediate club, though? Reading it with a club might make things quite a bit easier - also it will maybe not be picked straight away, so you’ll have some time to extend your reading skills.

:tada: Looking forward to your comments!

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Thanks for linking this blog, lots of reviews to read! ^^

I’ve started to read 蛇にピアス. For a moment I considered recommending it to the Intermediate Book Club, because it doesn’t seem too difficult, and it’s quite short, but then I realized, that is very clearly not SFW. So many detailed descriptions of body alteration just in the first 10%, that I had to stop for a day. (I am really afraid of hurting my body, so these were quite triggering.) The next 15% is not that bad, but still NSFW.

Fun fact: this is the only Akutagawa-prize winner novel that was published in my native language (Hungarian). That’s why I chose this one (even though I haven’t read the translation, I just knew this existed because of the translation).

I haven’t read 博士の愛した数式 or 妊娠 カレンダー yet, but based on your discussion I added them to my to-read-list.

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