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message 1: by Zala (new)

Zala | 16 comments So, what are you currently reading?
Whatever it is, Japanese or not, share it with us. ;)

I just started The Lovely Bones and it's pretty good. I like the idea a lot and I am excited to see it develop.
I also went and got some Kawabata from the local library to prepare myself while I wait for Beauty and Sadness to arrive. I only got some really old editions, so I don't know what the translation is like, I hope it's decent.

message 2: by Marc (new)

Marc Adler (marcadler) | 25 comments By the way, you're Slovenian, right? Where did you learn your English?

message 3: by Zala (last edited Sep 02, 2009 11:22AM) (new)

Zala | 16 comments Marc wrote: "By the way, you're Slovenian, right? Where did you learn your English?"

Yeah, I'm Slovenian. I started learning when I was six on some English classes, then I started learning it at school when I was 8 (and still learn it) and I learn a lot myself as well, with reading ... There's much to improve, though. :)

message 4: by Lindu (new)

Lindu Pindu (lindacrisan) | 14 comments Hm.. I got a thought, maybe those of us coming from non-Anglophone countries could post one book by a national author, one that others would actually like to read but maybe haven't heard of. I would be interested to hear what Slovenian authors you might recommend.

I'm in the middle of Reading Lolita in Tehran A Memoir in Books, though I didn't bother to update my profile. It makes me feel like I'm on a countdown if I do update the now-reading list, so I'll just add it when I'm done. It has quite a few bad reviews on here, but I like it so far. So much so that I'm in no hurry to finish it. One of my friends converted to Islam, and I've been bugging her with questions like a pesky kid, so that's partly why I'm interested in the culture now.

message 5: by Marc (new)

Marc Adler (marcadler) | 25 comments What's up with all these Mitteleuropeans speaking fluent English?

You're spies! You're all spies! ;-)

message 6: by Lindu (new)

Lindu Pindu (lindacrisan) | 14 comments Haha! I do plan on becoming a spy among other things.

Almost all the people my age that I know have spent time abroad studying/working, or have daily contact with you English-imposing linguistic imperialists hehe.
And like Zala said, you start English formally in primary school-- second grade-- or even kindergarten.

message 7: by Shawn (new)

Shawn (shawnb) | 7 comments I'm currently reading One Thousand and One Second Stories (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10...). It's quite a change from my usual Basho/Saigyo Japanese reading.

message 8: by Lindu (last edited Sep 10, 2009 12:03PM) (new)

Lindu Pindu (lindacrisan) | 14 comments For me reading Basho is like meditating: I really want to do it, but a few minutes in and I'm bored. I haven't read his travel writing yet.

That being said, there's a series of 36 animations to represent a respective poem, must be on youtube, I doubt Cartoon Network would broadcast them... some of them are really evocative.

EDIT: found the film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBxT4q...

message 9: by Marc (new)

Marc Adler (marcadler) | 25 comments Meditating is supposed to be boring. ;-)

If it were interesting, you wouldn't be meditating, but instead concentrating on all the interesting stuff you're experiencing.

To get the effect you just have to force yourself to do it a couple of times (at least 20 min). Eventually, that part of your brain which is forcing you to look for entertainment (and therefore forcing you to find meditation boring) gives up. It's this part of your brain which causes a lot of problems.

If you do this enough, your concentration span increases a lot, which is very useful for work. (And maybe also useful for reading Basho.)

By the way, I don't think there's any real use in sitting down and reading a whole book of haiku, because that defeats the purpose. Each one is an extremely compressed expression of everything occurring in a single moment. You have to let it sit on your tongue for a long time, and let everything about it infuse your brain.

One of my favorite haiku is by a woman named Tsubaki Hoshino (星野椿).


One flip on the bar and a sky full of cherry blossoms.

There's a lot of things here, but one thing in particular: childhood. Without saying anything even remotely connected to "children" or "playing" or "parks" or anything, she instantly recreates that single instant in time when the world is upside-down as you flip around the bar and you see the leaves of the trees above you. In this case, it happens to be spring in Japan, and so all the trees in the park are cherry trees which are totally pink with blossoms.

You can't speed past something like this. The effect is lost if you just process the words as information and don't connect it to anything in your life or your past.

message 10: by Marc (new)

Marc Adler (marcadler) | 25 comments Also, I don't know how into zen you are, but reading books to learn how to do it (and there's a whole publishing industry surrounding zen) is about as useful as reading a book to learn how to ride a bike. The only way you can learn is by doing it.

message 11: by Suzann (new)

Suzann | 13 comments Just finished Snow Country by Kawabata. It's full of haiku moments. The narrator is entranced by the reflection of a beautiful woman on the train glass as the scenery speeds by outside. Other experiences trigger a recall of the image for the narrator. Seems like beauty and sadness to me so I'll be interested to see how that theme is treated in our next reading and whether it's an idea that pervades Japanese writing, some period writing or just a chance commonality.

message 12: by Suzann (new)

Suzann | 13 comments Zala wrote: "So, what are you currently reading?
Whatever it is, Japanese or not, share it with us. ;)

I just started The Lovely Bones and it's pretty good. I like the idea a lot and I am excited..."

What Kawabata did you get? Snow Country and Thousand Cranes were his Nobel Prize works. Love to hear your comments if you're reading those.

message 13: by Marc (new)

Marc Adler (marcadler) | 25 comments Just a small comment: the Nobel Prize is given for a writer's entire body of work, not specific books.

message 14: by Marc (new)

Marc Adler (marcadler) | 25 comments By the way, the book arrived, so I'm reading it. Also, since the topic of this thread isn't ciphers and dead drops, I'll mention that I'm reading War & Peace, which just might be the best book I've ever read, and A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz, which is also very good.

I recently finished Saturday by Ian McEwan, who I have started to think is too self-absorbed to write a good book, which is a pity since he obviously has a talent for putting words together. I read the implausible Amsterdam and the slightly ridiculous Atonement. I don't think I'm going to read anything else by him.

One problem is that he's celebrated by established critics the way Haruki Murakami is, and this is just one more irritant that might be preventing me from giving McEwan his due as a decent-but-not-great writer. In fact, part of me wants to call him a "totally talentless hack" but I know that's not true. Blame the media. ;-)

Incidentally, regarding national writers, I don't know a single Slovenian writer, and all the Romanians I know either wrote in non-Romanian languages (Emil Cioran, Andrei Codrescu (does he count?), and Eugene Ionesco) or didn't write fiction (Mircea Eliade). Who's the best writer now or recently in Romania and Slovenia?

And while I'm free-associating like this after spending two hours helping my daughter with her homework... what do ordinary Romanians think of Andrei Codrescu? He achieved a minor kind of fame on public radio here in the States, mainly because of his thick accent, I think, but then he sort of disappeared. Do people even know who he is in Romania?

message 15: by Marc (new)

Marc Adler (marcadler) | 25 comments So I did some totally random free-association on the web, and found that the Slovenian Wikipedia entry on Russian literature is probably the longest and fullest I've found after the Spanish one.


message 16: by Lindu (new)

Lindu Pindu (lindacrisan) | 14 comments Marc wrote: "Who's the best writer now or recently in Romania (...)"

People haven't been that interested in Codrescu.
Eliade wrote lots of fiction. He has a short story I've always been fascinated with, called "With the Gypsy Girls". And he also wrote Maitreyi, about his love affair with an Indian girl.

There are quite a few young writers, but most are still in that phase where they're reacting to the classics and writing anything to be shocking. Doing the exact opposite of what others have done is still a form of imitation, though. So that limits us to a postmodern writer called Mircea Cărtărescu. If you find him in English, you might want to read Nostalgia.

There have been some good memoirs coming out, from the communist era and about the 1930s, those have definitely not been translated. It's a shame they haven't been able to find foreign publishers.

One of my favourite books, and since you like classics you might like this, dates back from the modernist era. It's called Enigma Otiliei/The Mystery of Otilia, the author is George Calinescu. It's a family drama written in a realist tone. I think it's only been translated in French.

message 17: by Marc (new)

Marc Adler (marcadler) | 25 comments Wait, isn't Slavoj Žižek Slovenian?

And what's the difference between "Slovenian" and "Slovene"?

Lindu, Kris, thanks for the light. I had no idea Eliade wrote fiction.

I'll never forget the first time I heard of Eliade. I was in a tiny bar in Japan with an Australian friend and one of his Japanese friends, who was writing her dissertation on Eliade. We were discussing "intuition." She spoke great English. She and Mark were arguing over the right translation of "intuition" in Japanese "in the sense Eliade meant it," whatever that means. What made the whole thing unforgettably surreal, though, was that the bar was painted all black and decorated with photographic close-ups of female genitalia. So I'm sitting there sipping my drink listening to these two discuss Eliade and intuition, and I'm being visually attacked by Sigmund Freud from all sides. What was strange is that it was this petite Japanese Eliade scholar who had chosen the bar, so I'm sitting there thinking, "Who is this chick?"

And that was my introduction to Mircea Eliade. :-)

message 18: by Zala (new)

Zala | 16 comments Slovenian and Slovene basically mean the same. It's a matter of choice which one you use.

Slovenia doesn't have many celebrated authors, though I personally like Svetlana Makarovič, but she is not very well known outside Slovenia. Also, our best romantic poet France Prešeren is supposed to be one of the best, even in the world - I like him but can't judge. This website has some songs translated. I think they were translated by an American who studied Slovenian and later lived in Slovenia for many years. A toast is our national anthem, but it's not among his best works. A Wreath of Sonnets is supposed to be his best work, but I personally like The Baptism at the Savica the best. It speaks about pagan Slavs, mainly about their leader Črtomir who is very passionate about his religion, but later accepts christianity when his loved one becomes a nun in order to save him. I wrote an essay about it for school once and got all the points - it's really something you can write about.

About the article about Russia - Slovenian and Russian language are very close - we can actually understand each other. Like romanic languages - French, Spanish and Italian - Slavic are similar as well, but have much less in common with English. Because of this many people here learn about Russia and Russian - my brother for example just entered high school and started learning Russian as his 2nd foreign language. Also, like Russia, we lived under communism for many years, though our leader Tito did not agree with Stalin (thank god for that). Still, there were similarities.

message 19: by Marc (new)

Marc Adler (marcadler) | 25 comments Да, меня действительно удивило количество сходностей с русским когда прочитал статью. Есть даже больше сходностей между словенским и русским чем между русским и польским, например, в котором никак не разбираюсь, хотя русский и польский должны быть более похожы из-за того, что они близкие по лингвистическому родству.

Даже я могу кое-как разобраться в статье, хотя мой русский уже совсем испортился с тех пор когда жил в России. :(

message 20: by Marc (new)

Marc Adler (marcadler) | 25 comments Interesting! I didn't know that. But by the time Kawabata's turn rolled around, it was for everything up to that point, right?

message 21: by Tsuki (new)

Tsuki (irtsuki) | 13 comments its almost november o-O

message 22: by astrangerhere (new)

astrangerhere Zala wrote: "So, what are you currently reading?"

All of Haruki Murakami and Banana Yoshimoto's novels are on my list this year. Kitchen and Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World are both on my bedside table right now.

message 23: by Jo (new)

Jo I just finished Kafka on the Shore and i am trying to finish off The Kindness of Women

message 24: by Mimielle (new)

Mimielle LaFauve (ardentiaars-mimielle-grant) | 4 comments I am a hundred or so pages into The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle , this is the second time I started reading it. The first time, I got it from the library and (this is really dumb) dozed while reading it in bed and banged my nose hard with the weighty hardcover tome. I was against it after that but NOW I have it on my iPod, with a Murakami collex, so all, I think, will be well!

message 25: by P. (new)

P. (shimizusan) | 8 comments I've got Ishiguro's 'A Pale View of Hills' in the pipeline. After that I plan to read 'Sputnik Sweetheart' and then 'Nocturnes'. I don't know why I chose that particular order, but I suppose it's as good as any ;)

message 26: by Jo (new)

Jo I'm reading Norwegian Wood

message 27: by WitchyFingers (new)

WitchyFingers | 14 comments I'm reading The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories, but savoring it VERY slowly.

Looking forward to Hotel Iris, the new Ogawa.

Also picked up The Sound of Waves recently and have that in my to-read pile.

message 28: by Mimielle (new)

Mimielle LaFauve (ardentiaars-mimielle-grant) | 4 comments I left The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle to read Norwegian Wood for discussion, then will go back to wind up bird, it preys on the mind :)

message 29: by rito (new)

rito (oxomatli) | 1 comments Grant&Mimi's wrote: "I left The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle to read Norwegian Wood for discussion, then will go back to wind up bird, it preys on the mind :)"

it does prey, but its a sick pleasurable preying. lol

message 30: by Lindu (new)

Lindu Pindu (lindacrisan) | 14 comments I have to let y'all know I'm reading the wildly fantastic Comics Underground Japan. Released in 1996, it's a compilation of the strangest manga you've ever seen, in translation. Here's some snippets and a review: http://shaenon.livejournal.com/53043....

message 31: by P. (new)

P. (shimizusan) | 8 comments right now I'm reading Sputnik Sweetheart.

message 33: by Az (new)

Az (a_krich) | 2 comments I've just had two weeks in Morocco.

Where I read a few Japanese classics, as well as one or two contemporary Japanese novels:

Natsume Soseki - Botchan
Kobo Abe - The Woman in the Dunes
Haruki Murakami - Dance, Dance, Dance
Haruki Murakami - Kafka on the Shore

message 34: by Parrish (last edited Jul 03, 2010 03:21PM) (new)

Parrish Lantern Try Haruki Murakami's Underground, I know its non-fiction but it's a good book. I am currently reading The sea & poison by Shuzaku Endo

message 35: by Michael (new)

Michael | 59 comments yes Underground is very good, especially with the outcome of the cult- last I heard they continued with a new name?- but the sociological and psychological assertions (this is the way it would happen only to the Japanese) are most interesting even as they seem to reinforce certain stereotypes- particularly politeness and avoidance. my favorite Endo is Silence.

message 36: by Parrish (new)

Parrish Lantern Yes they changed their name to Aleph & distance themselves from the actions of the Aum, if not the philosophies. & as for the stereotypes, having just finished The sea & poison, I'm left wondering about whether they are cultural traits, as it seemed to mirror some of the reasoning of underground.

message 37: by Az (new)

Az (a_krich) | 2 comments Parrish wrote: "Try Haruki Murakami's Underground, I know its non-fiction but it's a good book. I am currently reading The sea & poison by Shuzaku Endo"

I've now purchased a copy of Underground and will look into reading it in the next few weeks, thanks for the recommendation.

message 38: by Yassemin (new)

Yassemin (yas666) I'm reading Kafka on the Shore, about half way through. I am disappointed. I read The Wind Up Bird, not too long ago and was amazed by it but this one doesn't seem to be on the same page. I know many people prefer it but I don't. Oh well, still got a couple of hundred pages left. My view might change!

message 39: by Ivana (new)

Ivana | 24 comments You should read ''Beauty and sadness'' by Yasunari Kawabata .I think you will not be disappointed...On the other hand, it is always delicate to suggest a book or a movie to someone.....

message 40: by Yassemin (last edited Jul 30, 2010 04:20AM) (new)

Yassemin (yas666) I gave up on it. I DO like Murakami, like I say I loved the WUB but I couldn't get past the lack of plot in this one. I'm reading Never Let Me Go now, maybe not directly Japanese as it talks about Britain but Kazuo Ishiguro is Japanese as far as I'm aware.

I'll probably pick Norwegian Wood up by Murakami next, hopefully that'll be as good as WUB.

I'll look into that one you mentioned Ivana, thanks! Edit: Just did, it looks awesome, right up my street!

message 41: by Ivana (new)

Ivana | 24 comments Or in french'' tout à fait dans mes cordes''....

message 42: by Jo (new)

Jo Has anyone read In the Miso Soup? I have been trying to read it for a while but it's boring me.

message 43: by [deleted user] (new)

The only Ryu Murakami I have read is Almost Transparent Blue, but I thought the concept of In the Miso Soup to be interesting. I may have to give it a try to satisfy my curiosity.

message 44: by Jo (new)

Jo I look forward to your review if you do read it. It's not a big book but i found myself getting bored of it. I am just over half way.

message 45: by Jenn (new)

Jenn | 2 comments Yas wrote: "I gave up on it. I DO like Murakami, like I say I loved the WUB but I couldn't get past the lack of plot in this one. I'm reading Never Let Me Go now, maybe not directly Japanese as it talks about ..."

I LOVE Murakami, however for me, nothing compares to WUB, and unfortunately, that was one of the first books of his that I read. However, I still have enjoyed his other books that I have read so far. And I think I liked Norwegian Wood better than Kafka on the Shore.

message 46: by Yassemin (new)

Yassemin (yas666) Jo wrote: "I look forward to your review if you do read it. It's not a big book but i found myself getting bored of it. I am just over half way."

I wanted to pick that one up but noticed you thought it was a bit "wordy". Hmm maybe I won't..

message 47: by Yassemin (new)

Yassemin (yas666) Jenn wrote: "Yas wrote: "I gave up on it. I DO like Murakami, like I say I loved the WUB but I couldn't get past the lack of plot in this one. I'm reading Never Let Me Go now, maybe not directly Japanese as it ..."

Well NW is definitely next on the agenda as soon as I can get it :)

message 48: by [deleted user] (new)

I enjoyed Wind-up Bird very much, but I liked Kafka better. I found Wind-up Bird to be too long and that Murakami could have came to a resolution about 100 pages earlier. Plus I found his use of lightness in Kafka a nice break from the deeper themes of the book.

message 49: by Callie (new)

Callie | 2 comments I recently got into Japanese lit and started with Kafka on the Shore. I loved the writing style so recently read WUB and am now addicted to Murakami. My boyfriend is almost done with Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World so I am pushing him to read the last few pages so I can start it. I just finished The Changeling by Kenzaburo Oe and was a little disappointed in the lack of depth to the characters, but overall it was a good book. I am currently reading Les Miserables so that I have something to do while waiting for Hard-Boiled Wonderland.

message 50: by [deleted user] (new)

I am about to start "The Master of Go" by Kawabata. It has been a while since I have read any Japanese literature.

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