ふしぎな図書館 (The Strange Library) by Haruki Murakami
Published by Kodansha on February 8, 2005
Genres: Japanese literature, Magical realism
All 'boku' wanted was to borrow some books.
Against all odds I managed to finish my last book for the Language Freak Summer Challenge! Like planned, I read ふしぎな図書館 (Fushigi na toshokan, “The Strange Library“) by Haruki Murakami.
And I loved it! I won’t spoil the plot, but: All the narrator wanted was to borrow a book from the library, and then it goes odd Murakami-style, including Sheepman and donuts. If you like Murakami and magical realism and general silliness, you’ll enjoy this one. Also the overall tone of the book is quite funny and I found myself chuckling regularly. Despite that, the ending is saaaad 🙁
The Strange Library is illustrated by Maki Sasaki. I bought it at the same time as 羊男のクリスマス (Hitsujiotoko no Kurisumasu, “Sheepman’s Christmas“), which is also illustrated by Sasaki. I absolutely adore these illustrations!
The Strange Library has not yet been translated to English (although I’ve heard rumours.. *cough*ISBN 9781846559211*cough*), but there is a German translation with new illustrations, by Kat Menschik who also illustrated The Bakery Attacks and Sleep. I must admit I am slightly disappointed they didn’t stick with Sasaki’s illustrations, but alas.
As for the Japanese: The Strange Library was a relatively easy read. The book has some unusual words (although not as many as Sheepman’s Christmas) that I had to look up, and both the old man and Sheepman don’t talk standard Japanese, but this wasn’t a problem. One thing I noticed again is that Murakami uses relatively little kanji (Japanese characters), stringing together long parts of just hiragana (Japanese syllabary).
A beautiful example: ぼくはなにかをきっぱりとことわるのがにがてなのだ。
Which actually (approximately) reads as: ぼく・は・なにか・を・きっぱり・と・ことわる・の・が・にがて・な・の・だ。
Or even better: ぼくは何かをきっぱりと断るのが苦手なのだ。
(And translates as “I’m not very good at flatly declining something.”)
After having studied Japanese for four years and having lived in Nagasaki for a year, I’ve mildly neglected the language for 3+ years. But thankfully I was fine reading The Strange Library. I admit it’s really easy Japanese, but I definitely plan to pick up some more difficult books again in the future. Anyway, I’m so glad I read this book because it has got me motivated to finally work on my Japanese again. It’s gotten so rusty after all those years! So I have decided three things:
- I will always read a Japanese book alongside whatever other book I’m reading (at least for the upcoming year). It’s fine if it takes a long time to finish.
- I am going to retake the Japanese Language Proficiency Test level N2 in December. I actually got N2 in 2010 back when I was living in Nagasaki but I’ve forgotten a lot.
- Then when I’ve done N2 in December, I am going to aim for N1 next summer /ambitious
Krabat by Otfried Preußler
Published by Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag on 2008 (first published 1971)
Genres: Children's, Classic, Fantasy, Young Adult
Fourteen-year-old Krabat, a Wendish orphan-now-beggar, is summoned in a dream to a mysterious mill. When he awakens, an irresistible force makes him seek out a mill - avoided by everyone - near the village of Schwarzkollm. Here he becomes the new apprentice - along with eleven others already there - to the mill master... but not exactly in milling.
I read this book in German for the Language Freak Summer Challenge, so this review will partly focus on the language aspect.
I love this book so much! I read this as a kid in Dutch and I remember loving it, but a reread was very welcome. This book is a classic, and I recommend everyone to read it, no matter what language. The English title is The Satanic Mill, which isn’t very subtle, but I promise you the book is way better than that title would suggest. This book is beautiful. It has magic, and it is very touching at the same time. But it also doesn’t have pretensions. I’m not sure if I should categorise it as children’s or young adult, it’s just as suitable for adults.
Language-wise I recommend this book in German for intermediate and advanced speakers. It’s a proper book, not aimed at little kids or language learners, but don’t get intimidated. It’s a comfortable read, and neither the vocabulary or the grammar is too complicated.
For me, the German was absolutely no problem. It was pretty easy in fact, an excellent book to start with. At first I was a little more strict looking up words that I did not 100% understand – maybe 90% but wanted to know the specific meaning of – but after a few chapters I got used to reading in German and barely had to look anything up.
The problem with me and German is… the German language makes me lazy. I have absolutely no problem understanding it. But because it’s so ‘easy’, I feel like ‘new’ words don’t stick. Ask me for example the German word for miser, and I know I read it a million times (and understood it those million times) but I couldn’t tell you.
Anyway, I definitely want to read more German and level up! So if you have any recommendations of books originally written in German, approximately Krabat level or up, please let me know 🙂
难过的弗洛格 (Frog is Sad) by Max Velthuijs
Published by Hunan Juvenile & Children's Publishing House on 2006 (first published January 1st 1994)
Frog feels sad, but doesn't know why. His friends try to cheer him up.
Last night I finished the first book for the Language Freak Summer Challenge. I decided to pick a Chinese book as my first book, because I only just finished my Chinese classes for this semester and the knowledge is still fresh. This review will focus on the language aspect of this book: reading it in Chinese.
My first book was 难过的弗洛格 (Nánguò de Fúluògē), by Max Velthuijs. It’s a children’s book originally written in Dutch (Kikker is Bedroefd), and the English title is Frog is Sad. I have never read it in any of the other languages though. The book is about Frog, who feels sad but doesn’t now why. His friends Little Bear and Old Rat (I don’t know if these are their names in other languages!) try to cheer him up, but it’s not working, until… Well, you’ll have to read for yourself haha.
I was surprised how readable this book is! This was my very first book in Chinese, ever. I had to look up a few words (like ‘violin’, ‘mood’, ‘duck’, ‘crazy’), but with that new vocabulary it went well. My Chinese is still quite basic, but reading comprehension is my strong point and that was quite obvious while I was reading. Along with my good old Pleco dictionary app I was set. Pinyin (pronunciation) in the text was helpful too, particularly when looking up words.
I’d definitely recommend Max Velthuijs’ Frog series for beginners, as far as children’s books go. The stories are aimed at children, obviously, but they’re quite nice. I believe the books have been translated into quite a few languages.
My next book for the challenge will be Krabat by Otfried Preußler! German is by far my best mastered language for the challenge, so let’s see how I cope!
Via Cleo @ Classical Carousel I ran into the Language Freak Summer Challenge.
Reading books in foreign languages was something I’ve wanted to do for a while anyway, so this challenge is perfect! The aim is to read one or more books – in a language other than your first – during the summer (May 1st to August 31st). For more information about the challenge, see the sign-up post!
Some sign-up questions:
What languages do you know? Note: even if you are a beginner, it totally counts! And don’t forget to mention what your mother-tongue is!
My mother tongue is Dutch, and besides that I speak English, German, Japanese and Mandarin. (In some dark past I also learned French (6 years of high school x_x) and Latin (2 years), but I’m not counting those)
What is your history with these languages?
English: I mostly taught myself English through games, tv and the internet when I was young (we also learned English in school but by then I was so far ahead that it wasn’t of much use).
German: I learned the basics of German from an early age because we usually went on vacation to German-speaking countries (Austria, Switzerland, Germany), and the rest during six years of high school.
Japanese: I was a Japanese studies major in university and lived in Nagasaki for one year.
Mandarin: My most recent language is Mandarin. I’ve been taking evening courses for about four semesters now (for work).
Do you use them or are you out of practice?
English: I use English all the time and most books I read are in English… so hereby I exclude it from the challenge 😉
German: I get most of my recent practice from listening to musicals like Elisabeth and Tanz der Vampire haha. I understand German pretty well in both reading and listening but am absolutely awful at grammar and my accent is terrible.
Japanese: My Japanese has gotten rusty. I graduated in 2011 and haven’t used it much since then, despite being surrounded by Japanese materials most of the day. I plan to focus on it more after this semester of Mandarin has ended (next week).
Mandarin: hahaha. My Mandarin is awful. My strong points are reading and grammar, but don’t even ask me to listen to it or worse: speak it. I’m hopeless.
Have you read some books in these languages? Did you like it?
Surprisingly I’ve never read anything serious in German, but I’ve read some short stories in Japanese (no choice if I want to read more from one of my favourite authors, Haruki Murakami 😉 ). Mandarin? Nope.
What are your plans for the challenge?
German: Krabat by Otfried Preußler
Japanese: ふしぎな図書館 by Haruki Murakami
Mandarin: Probably a Mandarin translation with pinyin of one of books from the children’s series Frog by Max Velthuijs