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Need opinions on any of these Japanese literature titles


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I'm wanting to add a Japanese novel to ds's lit study for next year. I'd prefer modern literature as we will delve into the historical literature in a following year. Does anyone have opinions on these titles or authors? Others not to be missed?

 

Silence - Shusaku Endo

Wonderful Fool - Shusaku Endo

 

Black Rain - Masuji Ibuse

 

1Q84 - Haruki Murakami - this one looks most interesting

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1Q84 is fascinating but kind of incomprehensible. Definitely worth assigning, I'd say, but I'd warn your son not to fret if he finds the book sometimes making no sense. Murakami's Trilogy of the Rat is also good, if you have time for it, though the first two books can be difficult to find.

 

I don't know what you consider modern; if you're talking 20th century, I'd recommend Kawabata's Snow Country or Oe's A Personal Matter. None, in my opinion, is better than Tanizaki's Makioka Sisters (I re-read that at least once every few years), but it is really long. I took pity on my kid's schedule and assigned the Kawabata, instead.

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Thank you, your recommendations look great. I've not read any Japanese novels yet. Is all of Japanese literature so emotional? I read the reviews and so many of the titles deal with deep themes. I prefer a novel that moves me emotionally, so it's not a deterrent, just something I need to balance.

 

I'll probably order a few of these to read before assigning. We're dealing with WWI - WWII for an entire semester, which I find a fascinating time and we're both looking forward to the study, however, I want to balance the emotional themes so neither of us gets overwhelmed.

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FWIW, I'm planning on requiring Black Rain when dd gets to high school. You can also use it as an introduction to the I-Novel genre—it reads very like the diaries it was based on. IQ84 is probably more interesting, but not something I would assign. I haven't read either of the Shusaku Endo books.

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It is good that you're looking to balance the emotional. When we did the 20th century, I chose lots of "important" books which quickly became dreary reading.

 

You may want to look at the Hewitt Africa and Asia reading list; they have two groups of World Lit. It might be a good place to get a balance of non-Western lit. They include one book by a Japanese author and a collection of short stories from Asia and Africa.

 

Tony read Norwegian Wood in high school which he labeled as depressing at the time he read it, but it didn't stop him from reading more by Murakami later. It might have just been too much alongside the other 20th century books. He'd already read Night and The Plague along with For Whom the Bell Tolls and All Quiet on the Western Front.

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What about Obasan by Joy Kogawa? This would tie in nicely with your study of WWI and WWII. The standard fare for a Japanese literature course back in the dark ages included The Makioka Sisters, Kokoro, The Woman in the Dunes, Obason, and Rashoman and Other Stories. Preread everything. I appreciate all of the above works, but would not necessarily recommend them for a younger high school student, except for Obasan. I don't believe that Snow Country makes the AP Literature list either. For Japanese literature that is appropriate for high school, this is a helpful list. Also, if I remember right, Donald Keene's Pleasures of Japanese literature has a very good section on "Japanese Aesthetics."

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What about Obasan by Joy Kogawa? This would tie in nicely with your study of WWI and WWII. The standard fare for a Japanese literature course back in the dark ages included The Makioka Sisters, Kokoro, The Woman in the Dunes, Obason, and Rashoman and Other Stories. Preread everything. I appreciate all of the above works, but would not necessarily recommend them for a younger high school student, except for Obasan. I don't believe that Snow Country makes the AP Literature list either. For Japanese literature that is appropriate for high school, this is a helpful list. Also, if I remember right, Donald Keene's Pleasures of Japanese literature has a very good section on "Japanese Aesthetics."

 

 

That is a great list. I had forgotten we read The Woman in the Dunes too. Or maybe I forgot it was Japanese.... Preread.

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It is good that you're looking to balance the emotional. When we did the 20th century, I chose lots of "important" books which quickly became dreary reading.

 

You may want to look at the Hewitt Africa and Asia reading list; they have two groups of World Lit. It might be a good place to get a balance of non-Western lit. They include one book by a Japanese author and a collection of short stories from Asia and Africa.

 

Tony read Norwegian Wood in high school which he labeled as depressing at the time he read it, but it didn't stop him from reading more by Murakami later. It might have just been too much alongside the other 20th century books. He'd already read Night and The Plague along with For Whom the Bell Tolls and All Quiet on the Western Front.

 

 

I forgot about The Artist of the Floating World. Now there is a totally unreliable narrator! Oddly enough, I am just about finished with Ishiguro's Remains of the Day, but that does not have a Japanese feel to it at all.

 

Karen, I think all you are lacking in the above reading list is Catch 22.

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Elegantlion, I think it is great that you are going to do this. Try to give your son enough background on Japanese literature, it's common themes and literary devices among other things. Think how Vandiver's lectures on kleos and time (mark over e) helped to understand where Achilles was coming from in the Iliad. Most American students will never see literature from the eastern hemisphere, unless they go to college and deliberately seek it out. Which is a shame. I chose the Japanese Literature class in college thanks to my husband-to-be, who had just returned from a year in a Japanese university. It was an eye-opening experience to go hand-in-hand with my Russian Literature class.

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I forgot about The Artist of the Floating World. Now there is a totally unreliable narrator! Oddly enough, I am just about finished with Ishiguro's Remains of the Day, but that does not have a Japanese feel to it at all.

 

Karen, I think all you are lacking in the above reading list is Catch 22.

 

Luckily I skipped that one. Did I mention he read Metamorphosis and Fahrenheit 451 too - oh and The Things They Carried and A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. At some point, I did realize that all of the books I'd chosen were depressing. It just took me much longer than it should have. I was busy trying to fit all of important books of the 20th century into one school year. I did a lot better having variety in British Lit. the following year. I think that next time I teach a high school student, we'll have a much shorter reading list with more variety.

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Elegantlion, I think it is great that you are going to do this. Try to give your son enough background on Japanese literature, it's common themes and literary devices among other things. Think how Vandiver's lectures on kleos and time (mark over e) helped to understand where Achilles was coming from in the Iliad. Most American students will never see literature from the eastern hemisphere, unless they go to college and deliberately seek it out. Which is a shame. I chose the Japanese Literature class in college thanks to my husband-to-be, who had just returned from a year in a Japanese university. It was an eye-opening experience to go hand-in-hand with my Russian Literature class.

 

Oh, yeah, Russian literature, he wants to read that too. I've read a few great threads on that, so we're starting small, so maybe we'll have a Russian and Japanese literature study. Will work great for my Eastern leaning son. We enjoyed learning about kleos, and are now working on understanding xenia.

 

I think we'll watch the movie Departures this week. I've seen it before, but he hasn't. It's so beautiful and I think the themes will stand out more now that I've studied some Japanese culture.

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Ayako Miura is another 20th century Japanese Christian author to consider. Shiokari Pass is one of her most famous novels, and one of the few to be found in English translation. The story is set in Hokkaido at the beginning of the 20th century. The Wind is Howling is her autobiography. A Heart of Winter and Freezing Point are the other two novels that have been translated into English. I have read the first three books, but not the last, though Freezing Point is considered to be her most famous novel besides Shiokari Pass.

 

Though her works deal with decidedly Christian topics, there is nothing "fluffy" about her writing. She deals with difficult themes, including the difficulty of making the choice to be a Christian in a country where Christians are a teeny-tiny minority.

 

When I arrived in Japan, I was encouraged to meet Miura-san if I ever had an opportunity. I never had a chance to do so, but I got to know about her, even before I read her autobiography, through people who did know her, including the translators of Shiokari Pass.

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