Those of you following along in my stories last weekend will have seen I spur of the moment decided to join in on the #januaryinjapan 10-in-4 readathon hosted on Bookstagram. So I figured I’d go over how my reading/listening went!
First up, I listened to Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (translated by Ginny Talley Takemori), which follows a woman who has worked this part-time job her entire adult life. The book absolutely skewers the societal norms that won’t let Keiko just live her life without trying to “cure her” with marriage or a career. I definitely hope for more of this author’s quirky work gets translated (one coming this year I believe)
Next I picked up my first ever manga with My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame (translated by Anne Ishii). This is a slice of life story that follows a single dad who gets a surprise visitor after his estranged twin brother dies: his husband. You see Yaichi confront engrained homophobia but also see his daughter Kana welcome Mike with open arms. My only “complaint” is that the story didn’t seem to have much of an arc from chapter to chapter or even in this first volume. I found out later it was a serialized story, so that probably attributes to the kind of flat storytelling. Not a fault of the book, just not what I’m used to. Still highly recommend, and I have the next volume on hold.
Next up, I listened to If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura (translated by Eric Sellend). It follows a man who makes a deal with the devil to extend his life by one day in exchange for removing one thing from the world. This one had similar quirks as CSW, like the devil being a doppelgänger of our narrator in a Hawaiian shirt and a talking cat, but in the end was a bit too saccharine for my tastes. But its fable-like qualities are bound to be a hit for a non-cynic unlike myself.
And finally, I finished the weekend with short-story collection The Lonesome Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya (translated by Asa Yoneda). Like most collections, there were hits and misses here. But a few of these stories were just the right mix of speculative and cultural critique that were phenomenal!
Overall, I really enjoyed my weekend of packed with Japanese fiction in translation. It has just solidified my goal to prioritize more non-western writing through the year (and not isolated to readathons) Last year I only read a handful of works in translation (and those were from Swedish and Spanish), so there’s much more out there just waiting for me to seek it out and enjoy!