The Briefcase
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The Briefcase

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  863 ratings  ·  136 reviews
Tsukiko, thirty-eight, works in an office and lives alone. One night, she happens to meet one of her former high school teachers, "Sensei" in a local bar. Tsukiko had only ever called him "Sensei" ("Teacher"). He is thirty years her senior, retired, and presumably a widower. Their relationship, traced by Kawakami’s gentle hints at the changing seasons, develops from a perf...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published April 10th 2012 by Counterpoint (first published 2001)
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Louisa
I wanted to like this book for its front cover. Yes, I can be that superficial. I wanted to be ethereally transported to another world; floating in the lightness of writing and lack of plot. Sadly, it didn't happen for me. I did however develop a strong hankering for sake and lotus root fries.
Mmars
This book reads like Japanese art. Clean lines, spare and uncluttered. Or sparse, haiku as opposed to Shakespeare. The story is slight and the book is short. I found it somewhat cinematic - chapters as scenes - in Santuro's bar, at Sansei's, on the island, mushroom hunting, etc. Each an experimental and incremental step in a casual relationship full of stops and starts.

There's not a lot of explanation to why they are the people they are. They are loners who do not seek out friendships, though th...more
Noce
In una giornata fate tutto: lo comprate, lo leggete e voilà..lo dimenticate.

Ecco un libro che mi ha deluso profondamente.
A sentir la quarta di copertina racconterebbe di un’insolita e delicata storia d’amore intrecciata con tradizioni lontane e ricette culinarie giapponesi.
Chi pensa di immergersi nella versione nipponica di “Chocolat” si sbaglia di grosso.
E mi sbagliavo anche io a rincorrere questo libro per mesi, perennemente in prestito in biblioteca e sempre esaurito in libreria.

E’ pur vero...more
Antonomasia
Apr 10, 2014 Antonomasia rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Antonomasia by: Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist 2014
Shelves: japan, 2014, iffp
Book 2200.

Not as twee as it looks. The heroine is about 15 years older than the flying manic pixie dreamgirl on the cover, she gets drunk a lot, works stupidly long hours, has arguments about sports and forgets to clean a pair of muddy shoes for weeks. Out of the characters in the limited number of Japanese novels I've read, Tsukiko is furthest from the traditional idea of a Japanese woman, though she doesn't seem to have set out to reject it; she isn't intellectual, she simply sees herself as n...more
Oscar
La literatura japonesa tiene algo especial. Tanto sus paisajes como su sensibilidad a la hora de tratar situaciones y personajes son únicos. Mediante una prosa sobria pero profunda, Hiromi Kawakami nos cuenta, como reza el subtítulo, una historia de amor. Pero el corazón y el tema principal de la novela es la soledad en la que están imbuidos los dos personajes principales.

Para llenar el vacío que rodea su vida, Tsukiko acude a su bar a beber sake y cerveza. Un día se da cuenta de que el hombre m...more
Sian Lile-Pastore
oh. really sweet, tender and gentle book. There isn't much of a plot (I like no plot) just all about a relationship between two mismatched people and lots of lovely passages about japanese food and drink - tofu, miso, salted shallots, edame, beer and sake.
really beautiful.
Joana
Was für eine schöne Liebesgeschichte. Selten liest man so ein ruhiges Buch, in dem so wenig geschieht und genießt trotzdem jede einzelne Seiten.

Tsukiko ist 38 Jahre alt und etwas einsam. Sie arbeitet viel, weiß jedoch in ihrer Freizeit wenig mit sich anzufangen. Sie glaubt, dass sie für die Liebe kein Talent hat. Mit trockenem Humor und etwas Verbitterung erzählt sie von sich und ihrem Leben.

Eines Tages trifft sie in ihrer Stammkneipe ihren fast doppelt so alten ehemaligen Japanisch Lehrer, sie...more
Roberto
Gorgeous + delicate novel with quiet, minimal writing that also manages to be full of warmth (and delicious food). Like that beautiful cover picture it has a dreamlike floatiness. In the end I found it all very touching, sweet and sad.
Victor Alejandro
A pesar de que no soy muy fanático a este tipo de historias, Hiromi Kawakami, sin duda, sabe como narrarlas. El libro es una ventana al ritualismo cotidiano de los japoneses en todos los aspectos de su vida (incluso los emocionales), su sobriedad en los gestos y acciones y su compromiso milenario en guardar las formas y las apariencias.

Los personajes y la relación que surge entre ellos es profunda y poco corriente: unas cuantas brechas generacionales que, sin embargo, se ven salvadas por la emp...more
Tonymess
Here’s a challenge for you, write a novel about loneliness without becoming boring. Write one about emptiness without being melancholy, how about deep love without sentimentality? “the briefcase” is a moving sparse and deeply emotional tale of loneliness, emptiness and love but in a style that that is removed and scant enough to elicit a sadness that lingers long after the final page has been read.

This is the story of Tsukiko, in her late 30’s, a loner and a food aficionado who crosses paths wit...more
Kurt
After finishing up Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint (see review)I felt a need for something a little (a lot?) more subtle. And nobody does "subtle" like the Japanese.

Hiromi Kawakami's second novel, The Briefcase, tells the tale of 37 year old Tsukiko Omachi's "relationship" with her former teacher (she still calls him Sensei), 30 years her senior. They sometimes frequently, sometimes infrequently, meet up in a local bar, drink sake and chilled beer while tasting various tofu and seafood dishes,...more
Lisa
Reading The Briefcase, from the vantage point of one who has very little experience with Japanese fiction, it seems to me that it’s a bit like Japanese food. You either like its elegant simplicity and the artful way that very restrained flavours are arranged, or you don’t. And if you don’t, you may think this book rather lacking, in the way that you might prefer the robust flavours of Italian cookery or the complex artistry of French cuisine.

Well, I quite liked The Briefcase. It’s been longliste...more
Bieiris
Se pide al honorable público que indique con la manita levantada la existencia de una novela más sosa que la que nos ocupa. Va a ser difícil. Argumentarán algunos que la literatura japonesa es muy sutil y bla, bla, bla. Que sí, tendrán razón, pero no es menos cierto que el soserío es un concepto universal y los japos no van a ser los únicos vacunados contra él. Kawabata (otro con el que tuve un mal tropiezo inicial) es sutil, pero al menos escribe bien. Esta chica, nuestra amiga autora, escribe...more
Rikke Andrup Jensen
En meget anderledes bog i forhold til hvad jeg ellers plejer at læse, og det er sundt en gang imellem at prøve noget nyt.

Selv om jeg måske ikke jubler rundt i stuen efter at have læst bogen, så har den alligevel gjort noget for mig. Den har rørt ved en masse følelser, den har åbnet mine øjne for respekt og ærbødighed og så har den vist mig en masse om en meget anderledes kultur end jeg er vant til.

Dét er dybe følelser, som en krimi eller fantasy aldrig ville formå og netop derfor rummer denne ro...more
Ryandake
not a book for everyone, for sure. you have to like slightly odd japanese fiction.

this one is about a young-ish woman (38) who falls for a retired former teacher (sensei). not quite a may/december romance--maybe august/december.

i alas cannot read japanese, so i don't know whether the oddball is a common character in the whole of japanese literature. in japanese-lit-in-translation, there are so many oddballs one could be forgiven for believing that the entire nation is just one very big, polite a...more
JoV
Tsukiko is 37, living alone when one night she happens to meet one of her former high school teachers, ‘Sensei’ (teacher in Japanese, real name: Mr. Harutsuna Matsumoto), in a Satora bar. He is at least thirty years her senior, retired and, she presumes, a widower.

After this initial encounter, the pair continue to meet occasionally to share food and drink sake, always without prior appointments. As the seasons pass – from spring cherry blossom to autumnal mushrooms – Tsukiko and Sensei come to d...more
Carola
Hiromi Kawakami's The Briefcase was our 'readalong' for January in Japan. Kawakami isn't an author I had read or heard of before this event, so I was excited to get started. I have always been a bit more partial to modern Japanese literature compared to, especially, pre-WWII literature (which also has its charm, of course). Plus, The Briefcase was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize, and rightfully so in my opinion!

I enjoyed the pace of the book. The book starts out with seemingly rando...more
Núria
Feb 01, 2010 Núria rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans incondicionales de lo peor de Isabel Coixet
'El cielo es azul, la tierra es blanca' ha sido como la gota que colma el vaso. Ya me he encontrado antes con libros que tienen esa sensibilidad que se puede comprar en el supermercado en cómodos paquetes de un quilo y con el 25% gratis, pero esta vez realmente me ha acabado la paciencia. No tengo nada en contra de los libros que lo intentan y fracasan. Me pueden no gustar pero difícilmente los odiaré. En cambio, siempre odiaré un libro que ni siquiera intente ser original y/o contarnos algo per...more
Sarah
I got this book free through Goodreads First Reads.

Being interested in the Japanese language and culture I was pleased to have won a book by a Japanese author. I didn't quite know what to expect. It turned out to be a very enjoyable read.

The book explores the relationship between a woman and her former high school teacher. It takes a meandering path through mundane events, numerous bottles of sake in a bar, and the odd day trip. It does feel very Japanese: quite slow paced like an old black-and...more
Lyne
Tsukiko rencontre par hasard, dans le café où elle va boire un verre tous les soirs après son travail, son ancien professeur de japonais. Elle ne le dit pas, mais elle est, semble-t-il, une célibataire endurcie ; quant à lui, il est veuf depuis de longues années. Et c'est insensiblement, presque à leur coeur
Défendant, qu'au fil des rencontres les liens se resserrent entre eux. Des rencontres, il y en a beaucoup. Le livre choisit de n'en raconter qu'une
Douzaine, chacune comme un récit à part. Ces...more
David
This is a fascinating little book about a 30 something woman, very lonely and borderline alcoholic, and a 60 something man, a former teacher of hers, who appears to be a widower, with a son he appears to have no contact with, who is also lonely and a borderline alcoholic and borderline OCD like OCD....the story is told by the woman's and what is so amazing to me is how the author gets you to care about these to people and hope that their relationship works out for the best for both of them...I w...more
Kenna
It was lovely and captivating. But there's something about translated Japanese literature that feels wrong to me still. The ending was abrupt but that's what's beautiful. You remember the good, you live your life and don't dwell on sadness.
Will E
A pleasantly quiet read. I knew it wasn't going to be whacked out like "Manazuru," though I did like the dream sequence as a reminder of the surreality Kawakami is capable of.

I very much liked it, but Kawakami's style is so light here I feel like now that I'm done I don't have anything to grab on to. The central relationship is sweet, and not creepy, which I sort of feared before starting (I was afraid of a "Hotel Iris" type May-December relationship). I also liked it was largely devoid of conf...more
samkrunch
A bit divided about this book. Loved the slow, delicate pace of this story. Loved the descriptions of all the izakaya dishes and sake and beer. I really wanted to be there with the characters enjoying their food and drink, but alas, I was on the other side of the pages. Also, I liked the half of the story where Tsukiko's and Sensei's friendship was platonic. The love story arc with the age difference and awkward intimacy and what not got a little too weird for me. Didn't care for that part of th...more
Jan Geerling
I found this book by chance: it was placed in the wrong section (among history books) and i was intrigued by the cover. Japanese movies and poems give me a sense of alienation: a society alike and yet so different from what Im used to. In that society a woman meets her old high school teacher, and they develop from a fragile understanding into a relationship.

The two main characters are effectively described and I could almost claim that I got to know them in a way. For a chance find, this was an...more
Frida
This is really a book that is different from what I usually read, and so I can't help but adore it. It is a very innocent and sweet story.
However it was very slow to develope in the story and the actual meaning of it. The personalities of the characters also fell a little flat with their constant formalities and the protagonist's mostly monotone way of responding. Also the author's constant changing between writing the conversations like "..." and .... I said was rather confusing.

I did however...more
Winna
I never expected to find a book that closely resembles Banana Yoshimoto's writing style, which I'm so fond of. I was at first attracted by the quirky cover and premise, and it turned out to be such a wonderful, bittersweet read.

Both characters are people you root for, and what I appreciate is that I feel like a bystander, a reader wanting to keep my distance as I watch their relationship blossom. I do not become the kind of reader that falls in love with either character, instead content to just...more
Sam
May 20, 2014 Sam rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the lovesick, dreamers, fans of japanese literature
After gorging on Murakami recently, I was excited to read the work of another Japanese author. Kawakami - perhaps more 'authentically' Japanese in feeling, with her references to Japanese food and architecture - was no disappointment. Strange Weather In Tokyo is a beautifully crafted novella; like the character of Sensei, it is emotional without being sentimental.

Kawakami's sparse writing style takes some time getting used to, especially if your usual literary diet consists of more gluttonous p...more
Kim
Overall: still conflicted over whether this book is a 3 or a 4 star book; the characters were hard to connect so in the beginning it was hard to be compelled by the whole story (told in first person); fresh and new romance since it's not the usual love-at-first-sight story or straight-away-passionate-love story

Things I liked:
- this book was more about the process; not about the happy moments or sad moments of a romantic relationship but the small tidal waves of the beginning and the end
- the boo...more
Michael Schmid
Zum Inhalt | 本文 |

Eines Tages trafen wir uns zufällig in einer Bar. Mein alter Sensei und ich. Wir redeten nur wenige Worte miteinander, aßen eine Kleinigkeit und tranken nebenbei unseren Sake. Es war nur eine Begegnung zwischen zwei Menschen, welche eine gemeinsame Vergangenheit besaßen. Nicht mehr, nicht weniger.

Doch von da an trafen wir uns immer öfters, ohne uns davor abzusprechen, in dieser Bar wieder, redeten, aßen, tranken unseren Sake. Mein Sensei ist dreißig Jahre älter als ich und obwoh...more
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