The Briefcase by Hiromi Kawakami
Published by Counterpoint on April 2012 (first published 2001)
Genres: Japanese literature
Buy on Amazon
One night Tsukiko meets her former high school teacher.
Hiromi Kawakami’s The Briefcase was our ‘readalong’ for January in Japan. Kawakami isn’t an author I had read or heard of before this event, so I was excited to get started. I have always been a bit more partial to modern Japanese literature compared to, especially, pre-WWII literature (which also has its charm, of course). Plus, The Briefcase was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize, and rightfully so in my opinion!
I enjoyed the pace of the book. The book starts out with seemingly random anecdotes of meeting Sensei, moving on to a more organised story, moving on to a full love story. What really fascinated me about this book is that we find out relatively little about the characters throughout the book. Even at the end you are still wondering about Tsukiko and Sensei (not to mention all the other characters). And you know what? It’s okay. What we do know is enough, and it makes the story all the more natural.
Another aspect I personally liked about the book is the culture aspect. It’s a bit silly maybe, but having spent a bit of time at izakaya (the Japanese style bars) myself and being a foodie, I enjoyed reading about the drinks and especially the dishes. I want to go out and eat it all. (I’m sure I’m not alone. Actually, reading fellow participants’ reviews, I know I’m not alone, haha) No, the food is not the main aspect of the book, but the bars are definitely one of the main settings.
There was one chapter in the book that felt out of place. I liked the idea of the chapter but the way it was written was so out of tune with the rest of the book that it got in the way a bit. From what I’ve read in other reviews, it reminds people of other books by Kawakami. Any thoughts on that? Anyway, I definitely plan to read more by Kawakami.
So, a very short round-up post for January in Japan. I really enjoyed this event. I especially had a good time reading other participants’ posts and discovering more books I want to read. I can recommend checking out everyone’s reviews, and the J-Lit Giants posts as a place to start for information on some of the more famous authors. And I really want to thank Tony for hosting the event.
As for myself, in the end I finished four books:
- Confessions of Love by Chiyo Uno (read Jan 4, 2013) [review]
- De broodjesroofverhalen by Haruki Murakami (read Jan 12, 2013) [review]
- Rashomon and Other Stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa (read Jan 16, 2013)
- The Briefcase by Hiromi Kawakami (read Jan 19, 2013) [review]
I never said anything about Rashomon and Other Stories. I enjoyed it a lot, so much that I wish I had read the longer Penguin Classics edition that contains eighteen stories (mine was by Tuttle Classics and only had five or six stories).
I also started reading The Tale of Genji in January, which will be my year-long project (approximately one chapter every weekend). So far I’m having a hard time appreciating it. I appreciate it for it’s historical and cultural importance, but there’s definitely aspects I can’t stand.
Another book I started reading this month is Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore. This had been very high up on my reading list for a long time. I was planning to finish it for the event, but life got in the way. A review will definitely follow when I finish it.
I think I will continue focusing on Japanese literature this year.
De Broodjesroofverhalen by Haruki Murakami
Published by Atlas Contact on November 2012
Genres: Japanese literature
'The Bakery Attacks' (English title) is a short story of two friends who head out to the nearest bakery to satisfy their hunger - no matter the consequences.
Happy 64th birthday to Haruki Murakami! That this year may be the year he finally wins that Nobel Prize in Literature (average age of the winners is 64) 😉
In honour of his birthday I read De broodjesroofverhalen, a little book compiling the two short ‘bakery attack’ stories. It was published in Dutch in November 2012 with illustrations by Kat Menschik (she also illustrated Sleep). Part of it already appeared as the short story The Second Bakery Attack in The Elephant Vanishes… and surprisingly it seems the English translation was originally published in Playboy, hah!
Anyway, the book is short, and although the story is perhaps nothing special I can’t help but love it. Two friends are so hungry they decide to rob a bakery, but despite leaving with full stomachs and bread, the robbery has ‘failed’. And this has consequences..! With Menschik’s illustrations this is a fun little book to have.
On another Murakami related note: Random House has released a Murakami Diary app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. It’s a fun little app with Murakami facts and some exclusive short stories! Best of all, the app synchronises with the iCal your device, which also makes it functional. I must say I really like it and the design is excellent as well.
(Admittedly I wish they (or anyone) would also publish a 2013 paper Murakami diary again this year!)
When it comes to books, I first and foremost want to just enjoy them. So I don’t want to set too many goals and join too many challenges for 2013.
I do have one big goal: try not to buy books and instead read what’s already on my book shelves.
I am joining a few challenges that can be found here. Firstly, the TBR Pile Challenge, which speaks for itself. The goal is to read 12 already determined books from your TBR-shelf.
Secondly, inspired by my job, I want to focus my reading on literature from East Asia. I suspect I will read mostly Japanese literature, but I realised I have a few Korean and Chinese authors on my book shelf that I also finally want to give a try. Anyway, I am joining Tony’s January in Japan, followed by hopefully Japanese Literature Challenge 7. I haven’t decided what I will read for these challenges yet.
Then of course I will be continuing with my ongoing challenges: the Classics Club Challenge and my Murakami challenge (which combines nicely with the J-Lit challenges!).
Finally, I have also set a new Goodreads reading goal:
read 0 books toward her goal of 52 books.
In the past year, despite being busy, I read 57 books. I notice this is mostly because I don’t spend as much time on the internet anymore. Despite foreseeing another busy (even chaotic?) year, I don’t doubt I will stick to reading. I think I’ll be able to make it to 52 books again this year!
Let’s see how all of this goes! For now, I have kicked off the year with Chiyo Uno’s Confessions of Love. Uno is a very fascinating author and so far I love the book. Will write more about it later I’m sure!