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The Great Passage

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  5,773 ratings  ·  792 reviews
A charmingly warm and hopeful story of love, friendship, and the power of human connection. Award-winning Japanese author Shion Miura’s novel is a reminder that a life dedicated to passion is a life well lived.

Inspired as a boy by the multiple meanings to be found for a single word in the dictionary, Kohei Araki is devoted to the notion that a dictionary is a boat to carry
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Kindle Edition, 224 pages
Published June 1st 2017 by AmazonCrossing (first published 2011)
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Mike _____As a non-Japanese reader with no experience in translation myself, it hadn't even occurred to me that there would be multiple ways to have…more_____As a non-Japanese reader with no experience in translation myself, it hadn't even occurred to me that there would be multiple ways to have navigated this decision. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and didn't experience any awkward pauses in confronting the Japanese words. My assumption was that the Japanese words were left in because the word itself was the subject of discussion and also out of a respect for the subject matter, similar to the idea of calling it Firenze instead of Florence, or calling someone Juan instead of John.
_____This was a book about words, about their meaning, and compiling a curated collection of them into a pleasing final product - a dictionary conveyed their passion for words. It helped me feel like I was a part of that in a way that I think I would have missed out on if the translator had just rendered everything down to English.(less)

Community Reviews

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3.77  · 
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 ·  5,773 ratings  ·  792 reviews


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Pouting Always
Aug 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Kohei Araki has worked on dictionaries for all of his life and has a deep love for words and their various meanings. With his impending retirement, Araki must find a replacement to work on the dictionary that he has helped to start, an ambitious project undertaken by a department that is understaffed and underfunded. He soon meets Mitsuya Majime, discovered by another one of the staff members, who's quirks and eccentricities make him ideal for the job.

I'm not sure if it's because this book is a
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Helen
How can a book about a small department at a publishing house creating a dictionary be so wonderful?

Wrapped up in the main story about the creation of the dictionary there are three different stories about the people in the dictionary department. One is about a man who learns to connect with people, one is a woman who learns not to judge others, and the other is about a man who learns that it's ok to show that you care about things.

The translator has done a great job. There is a lot of discussi
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Melki
Jun 24, 2017 rated it liked it
A dictionary is a ship that crosses the sea of words.

This is the surprisingly fascinating story one man's nearly impossible feat - to assemble a comprehensive dictionary. While I loved the bits about the planning of the dictionary: which words to cut, the choice of paper - not too thick, and not too thin - the story became bogged down with too much backstory, and too many characters' love lives. I'll mostly remember this one for the fantastic quotes I jotted down:

Words and the human heart that c
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Tim
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010s, japanese, reviewed
Warning: While I don’t go into many plot details, there are a few lines that hint at some developments. So, those wanting to know nothing about character development can consider this a slight spoiler warning.

A while back I started my review of The Nakano Thrift Shop with the following: “This is the type of book that pretty much all my friends would expect me to hate, but that I always love. A slice of life novel, more on the humorous than serious side and with little to no plot. Strange for som
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Ashley
"Gathering a huge number of words together with as much accuracy as possible was like finding a mirror without distortion. The less distortion in the word-mirror, the greater chance that when you opened up to someone and revealed your inner self, your feelings and thoughts would be reflected there with clarity and depth. You could look together in the mirror and laugh, weep, get angry."

Words are powerful tools and The Great Passage wields them well.
Huy
Aug 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cuốn sách nói về những người làm công việc biên soạn từ điển, nghe đã thấy chán, cộng thêm cái tiết tấu kể chuyện đều đều chậm rãi kéo dài suốt 20 năm mà chờ hoài chẳng thấy tiến lên chắc hẳn sẽ khiến ai đó thiếu kiên nhẫn nản lòng.
Thế nhưng, "Người đan chữ xếp thuyền" lại khiến tôi đọc không dứt ra được, câu chuyện tưởng chừng không có chút gì hấp dẫn lại khiến tôi cảm động bởi cái sự giản dị của nó, cái cách tác giả kể câu chuyện một cách chân tình, không có cảm giác loè loẹt tô vẽ đã đi vào l
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Peter
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
One of the benefits of owning a Kindle and having an Amazon Prime membership is that they give you a free book each month (from a selection of six). This month, I downloaded The Great Passage and was pleasantly surprised at its depth and sincerity. If you had told me that I'd enjoy reading a book about writing a dictionary, well I'd probably believe you. But this book is so much more than that.

The Great Passage has two primary themes: the complexity of language and being passionate about a proje
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Chậu Tưởng Kí
Đọc xong thấy tác giả đặt cái tựa sách quá sức ý nghĩa <3. Mỗi chương là lời của một "người đan chữ xếp thuyền" làm cho công việc biên soạn từ điển trở nên sống động và chân thật hơn. Mình rất thích chương nội tâm của Nishioka và chuyện tình của ảnh với Remi dù thật tình là không liên quan lắm. Đoạn cuối ảnh vui mừng vì được in tên lên phần dẫn của Daitokai thấy cưng ảnh gì đâu. Hây mọi người, vất vả rồi \m/
Đọc xong biết thêm nhiều thứ hay ho ghê ví dụ cái miếng bọc ở ngoài sách (mình chẳng b
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Valkyrie Vu
Oct 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan-lit
Đọc xong cuốn này tự dưng có cảm hứng đọc từ điển :)) . Trước giờ dùng từ điển hoài nhưng chưa bao giờ thắc mắc xem chúng được tạo ra như thế nào .

Đây là một trong số ít những cuốn sách mà mình ưng cái tựa . Rất giàu chất thơ . Tuy cái bìa không hiểu sao cứ làm mình liên tưởng hoài đến ngôn tình . :)) . Đây là cuốn sách lý tưởng của những người yêu ngôn từ vì nó nói về một đám người ngộ chữ tối ngày bơi trong những con chữ :)) . Trong truyện mình thích nhất là Nishioka , tuy lúc nào cũng bị m
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Calzean
A fascinating and entertaining story of a small group of dedicated people who worked over 15 years to produce a new Japanese dictionary. I especially enjoyed the sections where there was a debate about a specific term or word, which highlighted the nuances of the Japanese language, are truly gobsmacking. I now fear writing any word knowing how easily the meaning could be misunderstood.
The complexities of producing a Japanese dictionary including the five proofs, type of paper, editing to fit def
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Satomi
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I downloaded this book with using the benefit of "Kindle First" in May 2017. I was curious how it is translated into English, since this book cannot be discussed without Japanese words and phrases.

Brilliant!! The translation is so great and flawless. I read this one with both in original Japanese and the translation, the feel is the same.

I want to recommend this book to all the non-Japanese people, and I would like to hear what they think!!
Kaora
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
However much food you ate, as long as you were alive, you would experience hunger again, and words, however you managed to capture them, would disperse again like phantoms into the void.

A beautifully written book that makes me wish that I could read and understand Japanese to truly appreciate the masterpiece that this is.

In Japanese like English, words have many different meanings and we rely on things like context to give us clues. This book follows several people in a department trying to make
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Jeanne
I downloaded Shion Miura's The Great Passage from Amazon's 2018 World Book Day selections, but I didn't feel like reading a book about a Trail of Tears-like mass exodus, which is what I believed it was from the title. The Great Passage sat on my "shelf" for months, unread. It actually has far too much good company on that shelf. (So many books, so little time.)

The Great Passage is actually a charming novel about writing dictionaries, which was translated from the original Japanese. It dovetails
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Stephen
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
A quiet read but fascinating for its peek into a slice of Japanese culture I was unaware of--a fondness for dictionaries. The Great Passage traces the work and lives of employees of the fictional Gembu Dictionary Editorial Department. It is about passion, for words, language and craft. Passion that spans a lifetime.
Words are necessary for creation. Kishibe imagined the primordial ocean that covered the surface of the earth long ago--a soupy, swirling liquid in a state of chaos. Inside every per
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Quang
Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Tiểu thuyết Nhật đầu tiên của mình!

Các bạn có bao giờ tự hỏi là trên một tủ sách tập hợp tất cả các loại sách thì cuốn nào là ... cô đơn nhất không? Đúng rồi đó, từ điển cô đơn nhất. Nó không có được sự lôi cuốn theo mạch truyện của truyện trinh thám, không có được những tình tiết dựng tóc gáy của truyện ma, và càng không có được những khoảnh khắc lãng mạn của ngôn tình, tiểu thuyết lãng mạn... Từ điển - một tập hợp toàn chữ và chữ, đôi khi là hình minh họa (bây giờ đã có từ điển tranh ảnh) thì
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Bri
Apr 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Holy flipsicles, this is probably going to be one of my favorite books of the year, and I literally stumbled across it on accident. I was looking around NetGalley for my "second" (the real second title was a bust) title to review, and I liked the description of this book, so I picked it up.

The book is narrated by multiple characters, each story revolving around the creation of The Great Passage, a "comprehensive 2,900-page tome of the Japanese language." My favorite narrator is by far Mitsuya Ma
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Karolina
Apr 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan
I really liked the plot itself - the making of dictionaries. However, the way book handles the important topics such as love, attitude to work and friendship is really naïve. It's a good Sunday read, but unfortunately even though it talks so much about the beauty and meaning of works, the way it's written is just okay.

There is quite a lot of attention placed on human interactions - be it between the boss and the employee, between co-workers, between lovers, but the way it's described just made m
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Kathy
May 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Considering the topic of the book, words fail me to adequately describe it. The creation of a dictionary and the team of individuals it took to manage the undertaking provides amusing and entertaining reading.
For me it was a delightful departure from my usual choice of book.
Trâm Nguyễn
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thay vì nói đây là câu chuyện xoay quanh Majime, chi bằng nói đây là một câu chuyện của những con người, những tấm lòng cùng nhau làm nên một quyển từ điển.
Mạch truyện mở đâu hơi chán, vì tâm lý ngay từ đầu lại nghĩ từ điển thôi mà, sao lại có thể phát cuồng vì nó đến vậy? Chưa kể tác giả còn lồng vào mấy cái quy trình của công việc biên tập từ điển, trong 100 trang đầu mình đọc thật sự mệt. Kiểu, mọi thứ cứ đều đều, không có cái gì để mong chờ.
Nhưng mà càng về sau, mình nghĩ mình đã bị cảm hoá.
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Marie-Therese
About as deep as a puddle an hour after a brief spring rain, this is still a very sweet and moderately engrossing novel.

Miura clearly spent a lot of time learning what lexicographers do and the technical bits of her book are surprisingly interesting, although some of the specifics are inevitably lost due to the vast differences between Japanese and Western orthography (same with some of the puns and misunderstandings that occur between characters because of too rigid notions of language-the tra
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Huyền
Mua sách vì ấn tượng cái tên của nó, "Người đan chữ xếp thuyền". Đọc xong mới thấy thực sự tâm đắc với cái tên này, quá phù hợp với câu chuyện vềnhững người làm biên soạn từ điển cũng như tình yêu sâu sắc của họ với ngôn ngữ. Điều đó được tác giả diễn tả một cách nhẹ nhàng, chân thực mà vô cùng cảm động.
Nhìn bìa thì có vẻ như là truyện tiểu thuyết lãng mạn , thế nhưng, tuy rằng có lồng ghép các chi tiết về chuyện tình cảm của các nhân vật nhưng nó không phải là điều chính làm nên giá trị tác ph
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Diana
May 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short, adorable story with quirky characters. The author is very descriptive about the process of dictionary making and clearly has done her research. For my taste, there was a bit more about the dictionary process than required and I would have liked more of the interaction among the characters. Beautiful cover.
Stacia
May 24, 2018 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asia
At the 20% mark, I'm finding it stilted & boring. Time to stop.
Breslin White
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A good story with some spoilers of other books. I dislike it when authors do this to one another. Beware of it if you like Natsume Soseki's books, because you get the ending of it in this novel.
Hiệp Lê Tuấn
Cuốn sách của lòng đam mê, nhiệt huyết, vượt qua mọi khó khăn để hoàn thành ước mơ, tình yêu với ngôn từ.
Ms.pegasus
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in a light book on Japan
Surprising relationships emerge out of the recondite labors of a team of dedicated lexicographers editing a new comprehensive dictionary dubbed THE GREAT PASSAGE (Dai tokai). The minutiae of new entries to consider, old entries to be re-evaluated, etymologies to be verified and mini-encyclopedic nuances of usage to be detailed are surprisingly appealing in the hands of this author. Such details consume the characters in this book 24/7. Is it possible that such an obsession can fill the deep-seat ...more
Armalite
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jeune homme discret et emprunté, Majimé se voit bombardé éditeur d'un dictionnaire en cours d'élaboration. Il ne le sait pas encore mais ce projet ambitieux, baptisé "La grande traversée", va prendre une quinzaine d'années de sa vie...

Enorme succès commercial au Japon, où il a également été adapté sous forme de film et de dessin animé, "La grande traversée" a pourtant mis du temps à me séduire. La quatrième de couverture laissait supposer une forte composante gastronomique à travers le personnag
...more
☕Laura
Sep 04, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a sweet, engaging book, but I think it probably lost a lot in translation. There was a lot of word-play which probably would have been very clever in the original Japanese but lost something in having to be explicitly explained. Definitely an enjoyable read though, and the insights into the process of creating a dictionary were very interesting.

Ratings (1 to 5)
Writing: 3
Plot: 3
Characters: 3
Emotional impact: 4
Overall rating: 3.25
Dillon
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An unexpected delight. This is a book about a dictionary editing team and their long endeavor to publish a new Japanese language dictionary. It doesn’t seem at first brush like it would be a compelling premise, but that in part is what made it so fun as I went through. The characters in the book fall broadly into two camps - the one, normal folks who don’t give a second thought to how a dictionary is compiled, and find those who obsess over such things to be off-kilter. The other, those who obse ...more
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Japanese Literature: 02/19 The Great Passage by Shion Miura 31 38 Apr 13, 2019 03:13AM  
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Shion Miura (1976–) , daughter of a well-known Japanese classics scholar, acquired her love of reading at a very young age. When, as a senior in the Faculty of Letters at Waseda University, she began her job hunt looking for an editorial position, a literary agent recognized her writing talent and hired her to begin writing an online book review column even before she graduated. Miura made her fic ...more
“No matter how poor he was at communicating with people, with books he could engage in deep, quiet dialogue.” 9 likes
“A dictionary is a ship that crosses the sea of words,” said Araki, with a sense that he was laying bare his innermost soul. “People travel on it and gather the small points of light floating on the dark surface of the waves. They do this in order to tell someone their thoughts accurately, using the best possible words. Without dictionaries, all any of us could do is linger before the vastness of the deep.” 9 likes
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