Monday, January 21, 2008

Reading Japan

As you know, if you've been following my blog, I've been trying to read more Japanese Literature over the last couple of years since we moved back to Japan. As it's not a passing fancy, and I'd like to learn more about this place I call home (at least for now), I've decided instead of a yearly challenge, I'm going to approach it as a long-term personal project. I won't set myself a set number of books to read in a certain time but I'll keep it in mind and fit in the books whenever I can or am in the mood to. I figure a button on my blog can't hurt though as a reminder. I'll also continue to list my reads in case anyone is interested, especially after Bellezza's Japanese Literature Challenge has got us motivated. And since my interest is not only in Japanese authors but in all things Japanese, I'll include books about or set in Japan but written by non-Japanese writers on my list too.

In addition to my general plan to read about Japan, I've also decided that 2008 will be the year that I finally read The Tale of Genji, all 1200 or so pages of it!
Why this year? While it's under debate exactly when she lived and died and wrote Genji monogatari, 1008 often comes up as the year it may have been completed. In fact, while we were taking the shinkansen back to Tokyo after our New Year's holiday, the scrolling news reader at the end of the car mentioned that this was the 1000th anniversary, so speeding through the countryside at 300 km/h I decided that being the anniversary year, it was meant to be.
To get in the mood, I think I'll read Liza Dalby's The Tale of Murasaki first, historical fiction about the life of the author, which I've had and have been meaning to read for ages, and then read Genji over the course of the year, along with a study guide this time. When I tried to read this a couple of years ago I got quite lost with all the characters and eventually put it back on the shelf after having only read a couple hundred pages. If anyone is at all interested do let me know as I'd love to have someone to read along with. Wish me luck!

16 comments:

  1. I like how you said you'll pursue your own personal goal...it's easy for me to feel too compulsive about challenges, and thereby rob myself of joy in reading. The Tale of Genji sounds fascinating. I'm not sure if I'm up for another 1200 page read (still on 730 of War and Peace), but I'll consider reading it. Maybe this summer when I'm not teaching?

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  2. I will be eager to see what you read on your journey through Japan literature. I love stepping outside of my own country and visiting others, even if I can only manage to do so through books.

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  3. can I join you in this endeavor? :D

    been trying to get myself to read japanese literature.. if you can consider manga :D

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  4. Bellezza- I realized it's not something I can put a time frame on and I didn't want to stress about reading certain books at a certain time. I'm sure to be reading about Japan for some time to come.
    Let me know if you do feel up to Genji in the summer. I won't be starting for awhile yet, the first half of the year is a bit challenge heavy for me.
    I'm finally reading Tale of Moonlight and Rain and there are lots of references to Genji in it so that is helping get me motivated too. :)

    Literary Feline- I've already stocked up on a few books from various recommendations. I'm looking forward to working my way through them. And armchair travelling is the next best thing to actually being there! :)

    ideru- Of course! Both to joining in and counting manga. I'd love to hear some of your recommendations on which manga you enjoy.

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  5. This is terrific! I really look forward to reading your posts related to this project of yours.

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  6. I can't wait to see your thoughts Genji. I read it a few years ago and love it. I read a library copy, and I have been keeping my eye out for a nice edition of the book to buy.

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  7. I think it's great that you're going to try to learn more about Japan through its literature. I don't know a whole lot about the country myself, but I do know that it has a long and rich history.

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  8. Heather- I never got around to reading much Japanese Lit when I lived here before but I'm really quite interested to do so now. Better late than never.

    Nyssaneala- I've been wanting to read Genji for awhile. I think it was just not the right time when I tried a couple of years ago. I already have a Modern Library Seidensticker translation but I'm quite tempted by the pretty Royall Tyler translation which I've heard has lots of cultural notes.

    Laura- It certainly has had a long, rich history. I feel like I haven't even scratched the surface yet but I'm looking forward to learning a bit more about it.

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  9. What a terrific goal for 2008! I'm looking forward to your reviews about it.

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  10. Robin- 2008 and beyond, I'm sure! There are simply too many books I'd like to get to. I know I won't read all of them this year which isn't really a bad thing I guess.

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  11. I think this is wonderful. Like Bellezza mentioned sometimes between challenge reads and in my case book club reads as well, I "forget" about the books I want to focus on.
    Anyway good luck with Tale of Genji! That will be a nice accomplishment.

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  12. Thanks Iliana. I think I'll need lots of luck to get through Genji. Hopefully it'll just click this time around.
    And I know what you mean.. it really is so easy to 'forget' about books even those we really do want to read. There are just too many distractions!

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  13. What a lovely reading project. I've got a number of Japanese authors on my list of reads. Maybe ours will cross over some. I've purchased Tales of Moonlight and Rain after reading about it here on your blog. Of course, I'm working my way through Murakami. I've also got "I Am a Cat" by Natsume Soseki and Aiko Ito on TBR tower of books.

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  14. Terri B.- I hope you enjoy 'Tales of Moonlight and Rain'. I was pleased when it was referred to in Murakami's Kafka on the Shore and I already knew the story they talked about and the idea of "living spirits". :)
    I have 'I am a Cat' too, and am also working my way through Murakami's books, among many others. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the Japanese books you read.

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  15. Your reading project has inspired me to read some of these books too ...added to my endless list of books to read! ;0)

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  16. The Holistic Knitter- LOL. We all have endless lists of books we want to read, don't we? I hope you enjoy the books you choose to read.

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