I think I’ve found my new favourite Japanese fiction book! A while back I shouted into the twitter ether for help finding some Japanese horror novels. I’d read Koji Suzuki, Junji Ito and Ryu Murakami but I needed something new and just as scary. Someone (and Im sorry I cant remember who) pointed me in the direction of Edogawa Rampo.
I had never heard of Edogawa Rampo before and I was massively missing out. I managed to get hold of one of Rampo’s books called Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination, translated by James B. Harris and published by a fantastic little publisher called Tuttle Publishing.
Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination is a creepy collection of some of Rampo’s short stories. Much like his name these are very similar in style to Edgar Allen Poe but Rampo delves deep into the psychological darkness that haunt his characters. Rampo’s writing style feels modern considering some stories in this collection were written in the 1920’s. Compared to other Japanese authors of that time you can see the western influence in his writing.
If you’re not convinced so far then let me tell you about the first story in this collection:
It’s called The Human Chair and it’s everything I’ve ever wanted from a weird Japanese short story. The main character, ugly and unloved decides that his route to happiness means embedding himself inside a chair. The pleasure he derives from those who sit on him is grim to say the least.
This book is fascinating and has been beautifully produced. Harris’ translation is totally brilliant, he keeps the clues subtle and the captures the sense of mystery Rampo wants his readers to feel.
Anyway, if you’re a Japanophile like me make sure this book is on your TBR piles.
P.S. The chapter titles of this book use a Buffy The Vampire Slayer style font. What more could you want?!
Last week I finished reading Parade by Shuichi Yoshida. Villain had been a novel on my radar for a while but the blurb hadn’t gripped me enough to buy it. That’s when I saw Parade, I read the back cover and figured that this book sounded cool.
It’s a fairly short book that surrounds four people flat sharing in Tokyo. I really loved the way Yoshida nails the mundanity of modern life, especially when you’re in your twenties, you live in a big city but it’s lonely as hell. Parade took almost no time to read but I found myself let down by the ending. It’s something you sort of see coming but the build up didn’t feel good enough. Considering you have such a cast of such complex characters and their situations vary so much it seems insane that they know each other, let alone live together.
Having read a lot of Japanese fiction this book didn’t connect with me the way that Kawakami or Minato did. Or so I thought.
It’s currently 3AM and I’ve sucummed to an awful summer cold. All I can think about at this time of night is Parade. I wasn’t going to review Parade as I concluded that it was just a bit ‘meh’ but this book has gotten more under my skin than I orignally thought.
Maybe it’s the Lemsip induced delirium or maybe it’s Yoshida’s subtle writing style. I dunno.
Any way here’s to an averagely enjoyable book that has stuck with me for no apparent reason. Read it… or don’t.
I’ve just finished a book called Penance by Kanae Minato and I need to tell everyone about it.
A colleague first alerted me to Penance a few weeks ago. I didn’t think I’d heard of Kanae Minato before, to was only after googling I realised that she had written the novel Confessions, which was adapted into the most darkly upsetting films ever.
My spawn woke me up at 5AM the other morning for no reason, unable to go back to sleep I started reading Penance. By 7AM I was over half way through.
In a tiny Japanese village with the cleanest air, a factory is built bringing in new residents to this little community. Five young girls are playing volleyball when a stranger approaches the group. Within hours one of the girls is dead and the fallout from discovering their friend’s body haunts the girls for the rest of their lives.
Penance is the sort of book I would have finished in one sitting (if I hadn’t have had to go to work and look after a small child). I did manage to read it in a day even though I was interrupted too many times to count. When I finished this book I was shocked, numb and chilled. When I went to sleep I couldn’t help but think that a twee little Japanese housewife wrote this novel.
Penance is a story that will really chill you. I want to read everything Kanae Minato has written, reading her gave me the same rush I had when I first read Ryu Murakami. She’s utterly fantastic, brutal and manages to tap in a special kind of female darkness. I need to read Confessions. Minato’s writing is sensational and there’s something quite brutal about a Japanese housewife sitting down and writing this book.
This is a must read for crime fiction fans and even more so for Japanese fiction fans.
Penance is published by Mulholland Books and translated by Philip Gabriel.