The Akutagawa Prize Reading Challenge

phew So it wasn’t just me imagining it was difficult. Out of curiosity, do you think it’s closer to IBC or ABC?

:laughing: Now I’m trying hard to remember anything that contradicts this, but can’t find any good example.

穴 - well, she was seeing things others didn’t
土の中の子供 - well, it’s a male protagonist… …and he’s not that mentally perfect either

Seems like a curse :stuck_out_tongue:

But but but you didn’t actually mention what you think of 推し、燃ゆ. Did you like it and such?

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I could decipher most of the books I’ve read so far in IBC with minimal amount of looking up words. Except Kitchen which had some parts where the protagonist starts to philosophise a bit. This reading experience reminded me of that. But I think it could be done in IBC with someone making a good dictionary Excel sheet. (It’s short, so if the count of pages is low per week, definitely.) If I had more time I should have looked up every word, and then maybe my understanding would be better. But I have to return it in two weeks, and most of my first week I was so exhausted by the heatwave that reading this book was definitely off the table.

I can’t really confidently say my opinion because of my level of perception, but the theme was definitely interesting, from one hand, the idol subculture, but also the family-tries-to-live-with-person-who-has-mental-illness part, which is kinda familiar by now.

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If you are at loss which book to choose next, then I recommend browsing this blog I just found: Glynne Walley's J-lit site | Just another University of Oregon Sites site though they’re very spoiler-y, I think even more than Tsundoku Reader.

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Thanks @NicoleRauch for making and showing this thread to me.

I got 推し、燃ゆ since it seems to be about a subject more related to communities I’m around and interests I have. I don’t really like how short it is from a learners perspective, but shouganai right.

I got also got the newly released 本心 which is by the same guy who wrote日蝕 which has also won this prize. The plot reminded me of a famous korean book I wanted to read one day (in korean ofc) and even the play from yagakimi, so it caught my eye despite being more serious.

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Finished this book today and I gotta say, was definitely unexpected in a handful of ways. Overall, was quite the dense book in terms of packing a lot into the page length it had. The language difficulty wasn’t all that bad, but it was harder at times to follow because the author did feel a little sporadic with their writing every now and then. I won’t spoil anything…but I feeeeel like the ending could have gone a very different way that almost would have been preferable to me so I am a little disappointed with the ending despite the ending not actually being bad at all.

Also, to anyone wanting to read it quickly, don’t be fooled by the low page count. Basically every page is a wall of text like this. It’ll take some time.

Overall, I’d say it was an enjoyable read. It wasn’t interesting enough to hold my attention cover to cover and I went to go play games and do other stuff, but if you liked コンビニ人間 then you will definitely like this book. Honestly, I feel like it basically did everything that konbini ningen did but better and with a more unique writing style. With that being said, it is going to be a lot harder to read than konbini ningen. Not because of the language, but because the writing feels a lot less straightforward at times.

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Bookwalker has a campaign as of today for both prizes (芥川賞・直木賞) leading up to the announcement of the winners on 7月14日.

posting it here since it might be a fun way to look through the nominees for this year’s prizes, and perhaps even pre-empt this year challenge wise, for a little bit of a discount…

The page also highlights (and discounts) some past nominees and winners.

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I finished it, and I loved it! Maybe because of my background, but it resonated with me quite well. Also, the style was quite straightforward (the protagonist is not the most philosophical person), so it was easy to understand. There were parts where the protagonist’s senpai is writing a book, that was a bit more difficult to grasp, but still within my limits.

The book itself is about a guy who works at a server hosting company, and his boss decides to mine bitcoin using their unused capacity. He will be in charge of implementing it, probably mostly because as a pun - he’s called Nakamoto Satoshi.
The story besides that is about his relationship with his girlfriend, and the aforementioned senpai.
What really disturbed me that Nakamoto refers to his phone as iPhone 8 every time… we learn that girlfriend has an iPhone SE and senpai an iPhone X (I bet he has a higher salary!). Maybe it’s to show how much he cares for phones and tech stuff, but it lowkey drove me mad.

All in all, I recommend it to anyone who works at IT companies, I bet it will feel familiar.

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Breaking news: Li Kotomi, born in Taiwan, just won the Akutagawa prize! She only started learning Japanese when she was 15. An inspiration for us Japanese learners! Maybe a Wanikani user is next? :smiley: She’s the second non-native to win the prize.

Her novel is called 「彼岸花ひがんばなが咲く島 」(The island where red spider lilies bloom, a fictitious island between Taiwan and Japan).
This (short) article has a bit more info:

This article also talks about the other winner, from a Japanese native currently living in Germany, Ishizawa Mai’s 「貝に続く場所にて」:
https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20210715/p2g/00m/0et/062000c

As the winners were only announced on July 14, even the (english) Wikipedia article on the prize hasn’t caught up yet.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akutagawa_Prize

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Wow, now I really want to read both of the winning works!

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I’ve started reading 貝に続く場所にて (one of the 2021 winners) today and it … takes a lot of focus. I’ve only read the first couple of pages and most of it is basically a description of the environment and people tinged with the feelings of the protagonist. It’s interesting, but flowery and at times hard to grasp.

It looks like through the course of the entire book, there is no dialoge. All conversations are part of the descriptions and paragraphs are long. While the vocabulary isn’t particularly obscure, I had to look up way more words than in the books I’ve read lately. Maybe 2-4 times as much.

I usually add about one word on average per page to my Anki deck. Here I added about 60 on the first 8 pages or so. It definitely takes way more time to read than I expected, maybe comparable to 風立ちぬ or 人間失格, but I’m sure I’ll get faster as I progress.

I can’t really say anything about the content yet, but I’ll report back once I’ve read more.

Here’s a short passage:

お久しぶりです、と思しき言葉の形に口が動こうとしたが、断絶した時間の長さに思い至ってか、声にならず曖昧な笑みに口元は小さく崩れていった。それでも軽いが丁寧な会釈を見て、何かがつかえる痛みと共に、記憶はばらばらに解けて用意していた言葉は失われた。こんな風に挨拶する人だった。私の寄せ集めて壊れた記憶は声を上げる。顔や姿よりも、そのしぐさに九年間が繫がろうとする。同時に、陽に透けないほどの存在感を抱えている姿に安堵したのだった。死者であろうとも影は足元に溜まる。私もまた言葉代わりの会釈を真似て返す。その下手な鏡像性に互いに苦笑したが、唇を一度動かしてしまえば、会話の始点は自然に置かれた。長い旅でしたね、と言えば、幾通りの意味も踏まえた上で野宮は頷き、少し疲れました、と自然な笑みを形作るのだった。

Edit: Okay, I just read some Amazon reviews and apparently even native speakers find it hard to read:

非常に読みにくい

毎回芥川賞や直木賞が発表されると気になるタイトルの本を購入して読んでいるが、
その中でもこの本は非常に読みにくかった。

他の方は「修飾語が多い」と書いていたが、
「一体何が言いたいのか?」と読み進める事にストレスさえ感じてしまった。"

Edit²: Wow, reading the reviews of the other winner, 彼岸花が咲く島, a lot of people seem to be very angry about the way a foreigner talks about their prime minister and country. Guess this shows how nationalist Japan as a country is. Definitely just became a must-read for me.

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For those of you who are interested in reading 乳と卵 but who haven’t felt like reading it on their own: We now have a bookclub for it!

We’re currently discussing the schedule, and the club will start on Sept 18th. And the best part: Once you finished it in the club, you can tick it off here in the list as well! :tada:

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If you liked コンビニ人間 and haven’t read むらさきのスカートの女 yet, there is a point back sale on amazon.co.jp right now, which means you pay 1100 yen, and get back 550 points.

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How is your progress with the book? Did you manage to fight through its difficulty?

Anyways, just wanted to let y’all know that I’ve added the new winners at the top of the list, but they are just listed and not part of a poll yet. The reason for this is that polls cannot be edited later on, so if I create a poll straight away after the new winner(s) is/are announced, that would mean creating a tiny poll with 1 or 2 books every 6 months…
Therefore I thought I’d rather collect the new winners as a list for the time being, and whenever somebody finishes one of them, please ping me and I will turn the list into a poll. This way chances are that I can group the new winners into somewhat larger polls as the new winners are not always being read straight away… :sweat_smile:
But if you finished one of them straight away, please don’t hold back and tell us here!

Thanks for your understanding!

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I was confident that I’d be finishing quickly, but I got distracted, so I’m still at 25%. I found the second chapter much easier, though, but the style remains more or less the same, so it’s never something to breeze through. Still determined to get back into it, but since I’ll be busy until October at least and have another (easier) book I’m currently reading, it’ll probably still take a while~

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So, after 5 months I finally read the English translation of 乳と卵 (because I wanted to be able to stalk the ABC threads :grin:). The translation doesn’t have a short story bonus, instead it contains a 乳と卵 “sequel”, but I only read the first book.

Aaand I didn’t like it. :sweat:

Maybe it was too literary for me. :thinking:

But beside the ending I also didn’t like characters personalities, especially adult sisters. (And yes, I’m taking their life circumstances into account.)
And random digressions.

But I liked descriptions of bodily functions, just, it was only a nice bonus, not enough for me to be a backbone of the book.

All in all, it felt like it could be a nice setting, but… a story itself was missing? :sweat_smile:

Still, looking forward to see what the ABC’s impressions will be! I’m especially curious about opinions regarding “what is the meaning of this” :upside_down_face:

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I revisited your review on this after finishing the book myself (and seeing it linked on readnatively), and I have such a different opinion of this book! :joy: I agree on a surface level with all the themes and such you described, and also that it’s interesting from a learner’s perspective. I guess it was just really not my style at all, sadly.

Towards the middle, that is the latter half of the first story, I was actually pretty interested in where the story was going. And while it was interesting to see these characters’ lives in this way, it was just not going anywhere. Which is fine, that’s life. I just don’t want to read 100+ pages written in this style about it. :see_no_evil:

Thanks to the club, and the quick pace, I managed to finish it in good time, at least. :heavy_check_mark:

Edit:

I think we’re in agreement on this! :smiley:

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Just wanted to share with you all (in case you haven’t seen it yet) that @KazeTachinu wrote a review on 推し、燃ゆ in the tadoku thread. (Big thank you by the way! :blush:)

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Today the winner of the 166. Akutagawa Prize was announced. It is 砂川文次’s「ブラックボックス」- I’ve added it to the list in the OP. If you read it, please ping me and I’ll add a new poll where you can tick it off.

BTW Bookwalker has a discount on the Akutagawa and Naoki prize shortlisted books until Jan 27th: 「第166回芥川賞・直木賞 受賞発表記念キャンペーン」 | 電子書籍ストア-BOOK☆WALKER

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If anyone would like a free audiobook of this, the voice actor Kaji Yuuki has read it on his YouTube channel here:

(I’ve not listened to it through as it’s above my level at the moment but would expect it to be good based on the standard of other things he’s done)

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Just to avoid any potential confusion, judging by the description it seems to not quite be the whole book, but just the first 40 pages

(still a cool find though)

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