My Introductory Post for the Japanese Literature 12 Challenge -plus A short story by SEIRAI YŪICHI "Insects" on the aftermath of the Atomic Bomb dropped on Nagasaki- 2012- Translated by Paul Warham
I first participated in Dolce Bellezza's Japanese Literature Challenge in July 2009, the month I started The Reading Life. I had never prior to then read any Japanese Literature. I had nothing against the idea but when I went to school, long before the internet, there was little to no contemporary Japanese work in translation. By the time works begin to come out, my reading dance card was full. I began to see books in the stores, each proclaimed on the jacket, as were all the other books, as a great masterwork. The Japanese Resding Challenge opened up a whole new reading life world to me. Starting with Huruki Murkami's After Dark, I went on to read hundreds of Japanese authored works. I now count among my favorite writers Kenzaburo Oè, Hurakami Murakami, Kobo Abe, Banana Yoshimoto, Junichiro Tanazaki and Yokio Mishima. Almost everyday I learn of a just published translation. A new generation of writers is out there waiting for you to discover them! There are elegant works by Nobel Laureates about kimonos down to x-rated romps through the dark side of Tokyo. There are great WW Two novels and short stories, historical fiction, and LGBTQ works.
I urge everyone to join the Japanese Literature 12 event. It is a great way to learn about new to you writers from the reviews, get some new readers for your blog should you have one and meet others who love reading. The very nonstressful rules are on the website, with lots of reading suggestions.
If I were to suggest one book for all to read it would be Atomic Aftermath Short Stories About Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Japanese) Paperback Shinsho – 1984
by Kenzaburo Oe (Edited and introduced). There is deep wisdom in these stories.
Here are a few of the works I hope to read for JL 12, running from January 1 to March 31, 2019.
- Killing Commendatore by Hurakami Murakami
- At least 12 Short Stories from the just published Penquin Book of Japanese Short Stories, edited by Jay Rubin with an introduction by Hurakami Murakami
- The Great Passage by Shim Miura
- In the Company of Cats by Tamayuki Hashina
- The Master Key by Masaka Togawa
- Triangle, Triangkd by Hisaki Matsuura
- A Slow Boat to China RMX by Hideo Furakana
Today's short story by Yuchi Seirai (I will alternate sometimes between Japanese and Western customs with regard to the placing of the surname) "insects" opens right after an atomic bomb has exploded over Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. The then young female narrator is in shock from severe injuries, all around her everything is destroyed. She, like everyone, does not grasp the magnitude of what has happened. As she regains consciousness she notices a grasshopper has landed on her. The woman is Christian, a religion once outlawed. She is initially rescued by her grandparents, her parents and her five siblings were all killed. Disfigured by the bomb, she has little hold of marrying as it is feared she will produce unhealthy children. She thinks about how insects survived when people do not, how good the God of her faith and heritage allow that? Almost never going out, she eventually gets a job in a print shop where five of the six employees are injured survivors . The story weaves back and forth in time from the day of the bomb to current time, showing how the bomb has shaken her faith in God, stopped her from developing a family of her own.
This is a very worth reading story. It is included in Penquin Book of Japanese Short Stories. It appeared originally in Nagasaki: Stories, a collection of six bomb related stories by Yuchi Seirai. Sadly, the Kindke edition is $33.00, for a 192 page book. The Penguin Book of Short Stories is only $5.95. It is a great value.
Yuichi Seirai 青来有一
Yuichi Seirai (1958–) writes fiction grounded in his home city of Nagasaki at the same time that he serves it as an official in the municipal government. His first published work was Jeronimo no jujika (Jeronimo's Cross), winner of the 1995 Bungakukai Prize for New Writers. In 2001 Seisui (Holy Water) brought him the Akutagawa Prize after four earlier nominations, and in 2007 Bakushin (Ground Zero) received both the Tanizaki Jun'ichiro Prize and the Ito Sei Prize. Other notable works include Tsukuyomi no shima (The Island of Tsukuyomi, 2002) and Terenparen (Slacker, 2007). Although not very prolific, Seirai displays a solid commitment to exploring Nagasaki's historical legacy that distinguishes him as one of its foremost novelists.
Very interesting interview