The Akutagawa Prize Reading Challenge

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 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」:

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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