Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, January 30, 2023

At the End of the Matinee by Keiichiro Hirano -2016- 306 pages- translated from Japanese by Juliet Winters Carpenter- 2021

 At the End of the Matinee by Keiichiro Hirano -2016- 306 pages- translated from the Japanese by Juliet Winters Carpenter- 2021

Japanese Literature Challenge 16 January through March 2023

2023 is the 15th Year in which I have participated in The Japanese Literature Challenge hosted by Dolce Bellezza. In 2009 when I first participated I had yet to read any works originally written in Japanese. Now numerous Japanese writers are on my read all I can of their works list.. The post World War Two Japanese Novel is a world class cultural treasure.

Both new and experienced readers will find numerous suggestions on the website. To participate you need only post on one work and list your review on the event website (listed above). New book bloggers will find participation a good way to meet others and expand those following their blog.

At the End of the Matinee centers around a long drawn out romance between a very highly regarded Japanese classical guitarist and a journalist.Makino is a classic guitarist who as of late has become somehow feeling his best work is in the past. His partner is Yoko, a journalist daughter of a Japanese mother and a Croatian father, who happens to be a renowned film director. The two are introduced after one of Makino’s performances through a friend of Yoko and immediately hit it off. Yoko is however engaged to an American man we never learn much about.

Makino is in Japan or on tours for much of the time that take him all over the world. Yoko, who is based in France, is for a period reporting from Iraq— the two begin an email correspondence. Their connection to and feelings for one another are Yoko, who is dealing with PTSD from her experiences in Iraq. Makino is also going through a musical crisis of sorts, he feels like he is no longer a musical prodigy and that he does not compare to up-and-coming young musicians. 

The plot has segments in Iraq, Paris, New York City, and Tokyo. I got little sense of place however.

In part the novel is a meditation on the power of beauty in art, whether in Bach or Death In Venice by Thomas Mann.

I found myself a bit bored with the characters. I guess overall I am glad I read this book, others say his novel A Man is much better.

Keiichiro Hirano(Author) from

Keiichiro Hirano wrote has written more than 15 novels since his debut work “The Eclipse” for which he won the prestigious Akutagawa Prize at the record age of 23. His deeply psychological fiction deals with profound and universal themes like self-love, relationships and acceptance, and spans from short stories and historical novels to essays, love stories, and literary sci-fi. As a cultural envoy to Paris appointed by Japan’s Ministry of Cultural Affairs, he traveled all over Europe giving lectures and many of his books have been translated and are widely read in France, China, Korea, Taiwan, Italy, and Egypt. In his widely viewed TED talk, he discusses what it means to really love oneself, arguing that it’s not easy to holistically love ourselves without knowing all our “selves”, good and bad, but we can discover the “self” we like with the help of the person we love. Based on this theme, his novel “At the End of the Matinee” was a runaway bestseller in Japan and released as a movie in November 2019. “A MAN” is the first of his novels to be translated into English. His second title in English “At the End of the Matinee” was released in April 2021.

・120th Akutagawa Prize for The Eclipse(Nisshoku)(1998)
・59th Education, Science and Technology Ministers Art Encouragement Prize for New Writers for Breach(Kekkai) (2008)
・19th Prix Deux Magots Bunkamura for Dawn (2009)
・ the Watanabe Junichi Literary Prize for At the End of the Matinee(2017)
・ the Yomiuri Prize for Literature for A MAN(2019

Mel Ulm


Lisbeth said...

It goes on my Japanese reading list.

Bellezza said...

It touches me that you have read so long with this event, practically since its inception! Like you, once I began, I found myself longing to read more and more Japanese authors. I have read A Man, but not The Waiting Years. Thank you for reviewing it for us, for participating, and for pointing out the richness we have as readers and bloggers in sharing our thoughts.