July’s Theme for the Japanese Literature Challenge 7

While June’s (optional) theme for the Japanese Literature Challenge was children’s books, let’s make the theme for July Short Stories!
I have not read many collections of Japanese short stories, but through some research I offer up the following suggestions:
Lizard by Banana Yoshimoto: “A set of postmodern stories from young Japanese novelist Yoshimoto, blending urban anomie with themes of spiritual awakening.” (amazon.com)
3 Strange Tales by Ryunosuke Akutagawa:  “Ryunosuke Akutagawa is often referred to as the “Father of the Japanese Short Story” due to his prolific literary output in the medium. Born in 1892, he was a contemporary of other major figures of modern Japanese literature including Soseki Natsume and Junichiro Tanizaki. He is known for his inventive and playful languages, as well as his pessimistic and satirical eye for social commentary…” (amazon.com)
Five by Endo by Shusaku Endo: “Five wonderful stories by the Japanese master. Winner of every major Japanese literary prize, his work translated around the glove, Shusaku Endo (1923-1996) is a great and unique figure in the literature of the twentieth century. ‘Irrevocably enmeshed in Japanese culture, he is by virtue of his religion (Roman Catholic) irrevocably alienated from it.’ ~Geoffry O’Brien, Village Voice” (amazon.com)
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami: “From the surreal to the mundane, these stories exhibit (Murakami’s) ability to transform the full range of human experience in ways that are instructive, surprising, and relentlessly entertaining. Here are animated crows, a criminal monkey, and an iceman, as well as the dreams that shape us and the things we might wish for. Whether during a chance reunion in Italy, a romantic exile in Greece, a holiday in Hawaii, or in the grip of everyday life, Murakami’s characters confront grievous loss, or sexuality, or the glow of a firefly, or the impossible distances between those who ought to be closest of all” (amazon.com)
House of The Sleeping Beauties and Other Stories by Yasunari Kawabata: “From Japan’s first Nobel laureate for literature, three superb stories exploring the interplay between erotic fantasy and reality in a loner’s mind.”
Rashoman and Other Stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa “This collection of short stories includes “In a Grove”, a psychologically sophisticated tale about murder, rape and suicide; “Rashomon”, the story of a thief scared into honesty by an encounter with a ghoul; and “Kesa and Morito”, the story of a man driven to kill someone he doesn’t hate by a lover he doesn’t love.” (amazon.com) 
The Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa: “From Akutagawa Award-winning author Yoko Ogawa comes a haunting trio of novellas about love, fertility, obsession, and how even the most innocent gestures may contain a hairline crack of cruel intent.” (amazon.com)
The Square Persimmon by Takashi Atoda: “The Square Persimmon and Other Stories is an introduction to one of Japan ‘s most popular and versatile writers of fiction . In these eleven stories, Takashi Atoda examines universal themes-first love, lost love, change, fate-through unmistakably Japanese eyes. The dreamlike quality of some stories invites the reader to draw his own conclusions in the denouement. Yet, in each one, Atoda brings to bear his precise style and his own unique vision, by turns mysterious, romantic, darkly humorous , and even bizarre.”
Tales of Moonlight and Rain by Akinari Ueda: “First published in 1776, the nine gothic tales in this collection are Japan’s finest and most celebrated examples of the literature of the occult. They subtly merge the world of reason with the realm of the uncanny and exemplify the period’s fascination with the strange and the grotesque.” (amazon.com)

Of course, there are many, many more short story collections available. Another I might recommend comes from Tony‘s suggestion entitled The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories. I hope you’ll join us as we look into this genre in July!
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20 thoughts on “July’s Theme for the Japanese Literature Challenge 7”

  1. Hi still trying to get to a point when I can contribute to this challenge. But until that point arrives, may I chip in with some suggestions: The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories
    Editors: John L. Apostolou & Martin H. Greenburg, Stained Glass Elegies – Shusaku Endo, Nocturnes -Kazuo Ishiguro, The Elephant Vanishes- Haruki Murakami & The Cape and Other Stories from the Japanese Ghetto – Kenji Nakagami. Hope this provides some more ideas.

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  2. I'll have to see if I have any Japanese short story collections. After the Quake is a good one by Murakami, but I've already read it. Oh, I think I might have The Elephant Vanishes. Nocturnes is one I tried to buy in Tokyo but husband stopped me because Ishiguro is not Japanese. He didn't want me to buy anything I could easily acquire in the U.S. Unfortunately, I still haven't managed to get my mitts on it.

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  3. I love short stories, so I'm excited about this month's theme. I didn't get to post anything last month, but I'm hoping to finally read something by Murakami or Yoshimoto this month. They both are excellent storytellers and I loved their short stories. Although now that I think about it, I might wind up reading Ogawa's short story book, The Diving Pool. Hmm. So many wonderful choices. I loved your book collage of ideas for this month 🙂

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  4. Short stories sound great for this month and I have Murakami's Blind Willow here, although I am not quite sure about reading a second Murakami this year, after Kafka on the Shore… We'll see how my mood goes, between Paris in July and Japanese Literature 🙂

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  5. I hope you don't mind me joining you this month – I've just purchased a copy of “The Diving Pool” and I'll read and review at my own blog messybooker.blogspot.com – thanks for the recommendations, it looks like a couple are out of print (I'd love to find “House of the Sleeping Beauties” and will try my local library).

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  6. Hi Bookfool, although Ishiguro took British citizenship in 82, he was born in Nagazaki in 54 & is the son of Shizuo Ishiguro and his wife Shizuko.So I think you could get away with him in a J-lit challenge, I have in the past 🙂

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  7. That's it! I have to give in and throw down the gauntlet and participate (pardon my mixed metaphors). I've been trying so hard to resist – because I was too busy with boring old work, but now with the holidays beckoning, and with such a lovely choice of books you have set us, I'll have to take part. The Diving Pool looks especially enticing, but only because I've read some of the others. I like nearly all Murakami short stories, but here are some other suggestions:
    Dazai Osamu (possibly my favourite Japanese author) has one short story collection published in English under Crackling Mountain and other stories (in Japanese I think it was Hashire Merosu, although not all the stories may be there).
    And I've been meaning to read the collection by contemporary Japanese women writers 'Inside' (edited by Cathy Layne), so perhaps this will spur me on to finaly do so.
    And I also have heard good things about Kizaki Satoko's collection 'The Phoenix Tree'.
    Finally, I was very impressed by Ibuse Masuji's novel Black Rain, and I see that there is a short story collection by him translated into English as well: Salamander and Other Stories.
    I suppose I'm making the list for myself, as I want to read all of the above.

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  8. What a great list of books to choose from. I don't read very many short stories but that synopsis of The Diving Pool sounds very interesting. I did try another of Murakami's short story collections a while back and it was different of course. Not sure that I loved it much but it lingered in my mind for quite a while.

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  9. I couldn't find any of these books in my local library and so I am going to have to pass on the short stories.

    I was wondering, I am currently reading The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng, and though this story is based in Malaysia, it's really about the Japanese occupation there during the second world war.

    I think I remember reading in an earlier post/comment that books based on Japanese themes would be allowed even if the writer is not Japanese. But I don't know, would this book qualify for Japanese Reading Challenge?

    And do feel free to say no, if it doesn't, I won't mind 🙂

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  10. Please don't feel confined to either the “theme” or this particular list of suggestions. If you chose, you may read any Japanese short story. And sure, I'd love to hear about The Garden of Evening Mists. Japanese occupation can surely count, really, anything that has to do with the Japanese can count. I learn so much from all this wonderful participation so thank you.

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  11. I don't read many short stories, either. I have picked up Raymond Carver short stories because he is one of Haruki Murakami's favorite authors, but I don't normally read a lot of this genre. Now I'll have to read Murakami's collections. His stories stay in my mind for quite awhile, too.

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  12. Marina, all the books and aloes you have included in your comment are new to me with th exception of Masuji's Black Rain. Though very beautifully written, I abandoned it halfway through because it was so bleak. Yet what can war be but that? Thank you for your recommendations and participation.

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  13. Tony, I'd love to have your participation! I have added you to the review site, and then I went ahead and ordered a used copy of The House of Sleeping Beauties from amazon after you mentioned it again here.

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  14. Oops, I'm sorry Kafka on the Shore didn't work for you. Isn't it fun to read for Paris in July, too? My goodness I have a glorious selection of books for this month which I'll probably never get to. Thoroughly, anyway. 😦

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  15. Oh no, I loved Kafka on the shore quite a lot, and this is why I am wondering whether to start a new Murakami book, since I am too fascinated by this one 🙂

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  16. Thanks so much. I just put up the review on my blog, and linked to your challenge.

    I really felt this could be included because it talks not just about the Japanese role in the war, but also because the story centers very much on the Japanese art forms of gardening and tattooing.

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