Saturday 08 November 2003

Grab some books and run

Via Joe Duemer comes a challenge from Everything Burns: an oppressive regime has taken control of your country and you have to cut and run. After packing the essentials, you have room for 7 or 8 books and 5 minutes to choose them. The books must be in your possession at the time you take the digital photo showing your choices.

I thought briefly about books in English I’d take but most of them were translations from Japanese originals. I knew I’d need a kanji dictionary to look up characters and compound words but, as you can see from the three dictionaries in the background of my photo, a useful dictionary is enormous. So, after reading the rules carefully again and noting that you were expected to have packed a flashlight, I decided to take my Sony Data Discman with Jack Halpern’s New Japanese-English Character Dictionary on an 8cm CD-ROM, plus an ample supply of batteries. And, because the standard Japanese (bunkobon) paperback format is so small, I could choose 7 titles, even though 2 of them come in multiple volumes.

A stack of Japanese novels with an electronic dictionary

My choices:

  • Kokoro, Natsume Sōseki
  • An’ya Kōro (A Dark Night’s Passing), Shiga Naoya
  • Bokutō Kidan (A Strange Tale from East of the River), Nagai Kafū
  • Sasame Yuki (The Makioka Sisters), Tanizaki Jun’ichirō
  • Yōji kari•Kani (Toddler Hunting•Crabs), Kōno Taeko
  • Onnazakari (A Mature Woman), Maruya Saiichi
  • Noruwei no mori (Norwegian Wood), Murakami Haruki

I’d like to have added at least one Japanese translation of an Arsène Lupin novel but I couldn’t manage a trip to Kinokuniya within the allotted 5 minutes. I heard about Arsène Lupin via Language Hat’s link to a marvellous post at Canticlysm in which Emeth explained how she learned Japanese by the Reading 400 Mystery Novels in Eighteen Months method. That reminded me of one of my Japanese teachers who’d learned English in Australia by watching game shows on TV and reading Agatha Christie novels (because the grammar and vocabulary were simple). When I checked at Amazon Japan, there were well over a hundred Agatha Christie mysteries in Japanese including Soshite dare mo inaku natta (And Then There Were None). I haven’t read a mystery novel in years but now might be the time to start again.

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Comments

It is always interesting to read someone else list from someone
who finds it
difficult to make a list, but this time it
hit me when I saw Kokoro first in your list. I
talk to my sister in Honolulu on weekends and just yesterday she
told me she was reading Kokoro.
About a year ago I picked up Kokoro (English version)at a garage sale,
I read it to find out how a canon like that holds today in translation
and to see if my son might want to try it. He loves Miyamoto Musashi.
I did not pass it on to him. It is best he picks it up without my prompting.
I never read Kono Taeko but I read
another Taeko a lot, Tomioka
Taeko. She wrote the screenplay of
Double suicide (Chikamatsu) with Inagaki
at the helm.

I am not surprised to see Nagai Kafu and Sasame Yuki by Taniguchi
in your list, besides Kono Taeko, Onna Sakari is a big surprise.
Again I have not read these books yet don't know if I will come
across one at a garage sale in Suburbia America.
I think Haruki Murakami's works translate well
into English. His short story showed up in the New Yorker which I recently read.

Posted by Dim Sum on 10 November 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Dim Sum (heh), though I too enjoyed Yoshikawa Eiji's Musashi, I think you were right to decide that your son could pick up Kokoro in his own time.

I have the DVD of Double Suicide, directed by Shinoda, for which Tomioka Taeko shares a writing credit. It's an extraordinary film, so stylized yet at the same time so emotionally engaging.

You might want to see if you can find Onnazakari at a library -- it's a marvellous comic novel about a female journalist who inadvertently becomes involved in a political scandal.

And I agree with you that Murakami's works translate well into English. His fans generally prefer the later novels but I loved Norwegian Wood when I read it in translation so I'm keen to read the original.

Posted by Jonathon on 10 November 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Oops, Shinoda. I don't know why Shinoda
got switched to Inagaki, my Mega(meager) memory.
Shinoda is married to that famous actress,
you know who I am talking about. And the
actor, Nakamura Kichiemon? the kabuki actor.
I like him. I knew him and his brother when
they were teenage matinee idols with different
names. It is confusing, two actors and 4 names
to remember or not to remember.
Was there a film version of Onnazakari?

Posted by Dim Sum on 10 November 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Oops, Shinoda. I don't know why Shinoda
got switched to Inagaki, my Mega(meager) memory.
Shinoda is married to that famous actress,
you know who I am talking about. And the
actor, Nakamura Kichiemon? the kabuki actor.
I like him. I knew him and his brother when
they were teenage matinee idols with different
names. It is confusing, two actors and 4 names
to remember or not to remember.
Was there a film version of Onnazakari?

Posted by Dim Sum on 10 November 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Nobuhiko Obayashi made a film name "Onna zakari" in 1994. See:

http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0110739/

I don't think this has ever appeared on DVD.

MEK

Posted by Michael Kerpan on 10 November 2003 (Comment Permalink)

I saw Obayashi's film of "Onna zakari" on the shelf in a video store in Tokyo a few years ago but didn't have time to rent it. Yoshinaga Sayuri plays Minami Yumiko (the protagonist) and Tsugawa Masahiko is her lover. Tsugawa appeared in many of Itami Juzo's movies and also plays Nagai Kafu in the Shindo Kaneto version of Bokuto kidan, which is available on DVD (I bought it along with the first Ozu DVD Box Set).

Posted by Jonathon on 11 November 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Thank you MEK. Don't know if I would find
that film. The Japanese market has a few films
besides Sushi here in Cactusland.
Tsugawa Masahiko, wow, he is still alive!
Itami was a great essayest and I love his
writing. Jibun no hashigo o sagase.
He played Bach with
his violin on blue black carpted room in Kimono.
He was a dandy. Never imagined that he would
commit suicide, in his younger days he led such an interesting life,
drinking with Peter O'tool, so international,
cultivated, smart and original.

Posted by Dim Sum on 11 November 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Is there a Japanese translation of the Yi Jing? If I were on the run that's the book I'd want with me.
Having appropriated so much else from Chinese culture, why have the Japanese never shown much interest in the Yi? Is it even more alien to the Japanese mind than the Western?

Posted by fyreflye on 29 November 2003 (Comment Permalink)

In all the time I've studied Japanese language, literature, and culture, I've never seen any mention of the Yi Jing (I Ching). But a Google search yielded an essay by Wai-ming Ng on the influence of I Ching on Shinto. It begins:

"The I Ching or Book of Changes, both a book of magic and a book of wisdom, is one of the most influential and popular of the Chinese classics. More than a Confucian classic, it is a powerful metaphysical and symbolic system representing different aspects of Chinese culture. In China, Confucianism, Taoism, the Yin-Yang school, and some schools of Buddhism and folk religion all claimed the text as their own, appropriating the text's philosophy and divination methods. The same scenario can be found in Japan, where Shinto, Buddhism, Onmyodo (Way of Yin and Yang), and some 'new religions' tried to incorporate the I Ching into their systems of thought. This article will examine the relationship between the I Ching and Shinto in Tokugawa Japan (1603-1868)."

http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-PHIL/ew88795.htm

Posted by Jonathon on 29 November 2003 (Comment Permalink)

So how do you say "I Ching" in Japanese?

Posted by language hat on 30 November 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Yijing in Chinese translates most literally as "change classic," usually Englished as Classic or Book of Changes. Surely Japan must have Sinologues besides Wai-ming Ng. In my original post I was thinking of the Yi more as an Oracle than as a Chinese classic. Even the honchos in Beijing as well as Hong Kong business men still consult it for decision making. I'm pretty familiar with Japanese culture but I've never encountered a Japanese equivalent of the Yi. Perhaps it's too Confucian for them.

Posted by fyreflye on 30 November 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Jim Breen's EDICT gives it as "ekikyō":

易経 【えききょう】 (n) I Ching; Yi Jing; The Book of Changes

http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/cgi-bin/cgiwrap/jwb/wwwjdic?1C and search for "ching".

Posted by Jonathon on 30 November 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Bingo! Thanks, and I confirmed it by googling "ekikyo" and finding it here:
http://wwwwp.mext.go.jp/eng100n/index-4.html

"By the close of the Shogunate the fief schools provided a comprehensive education for the samurai class. Instruction was centered about Chinese classics. This meant studies in Confucian doctrine and the history and literature of China. Elementary classes used the Primer of Chinese Characters (Senjimon) for practicing calligraphy and the Brief History of Japan (Sanjikyo) for practice in reading. Other elementary textbooks that were frequently used included the Book of Filial Piety (Kokyo), the Book of Manners (Shogaku), and the Collection of Chu Hsi's Sayings. Others were the Four Books (Shisho): 1) Great Learning (Daigaku), 2) Doctrine of the Mean (Chuyo), 3) Confucian Analects (Rongo), and 4) Sayings of Mencius (Moshi); and the Five Canons (Gokyo): 1) Book of Changes (Ekikyo); 2) Book of Odes (Shikyo); 3) Book of Annals (Shokyo), 4) Spring and Autumn (Shunju), and 5) Record of Rites (Raiki)."

So it certainly sounds like it was part of Japanese education at one point.

(I would normally have been able to figure out the Japanese version by myself, but almost all my reference books are boxed for the move upstate, which -- knock on wood -- is likely to happen next weekend.)

Posted by language hat on 1 December 2003 (Comment Permalink)

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2007 Jonathon Delacour