Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

A novel that is also a haiku. Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata takes place on the western coast of northern Japan where geography and climate conspire to create a mountainous landscape that gets more snow than any other place on earth.  The small townships along the railway tracks that cut through the mountains survive on income from the few tourists who visit the local hot springs … Continue reading Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

The Land of Green Plums by Herta Muller

How true is this opening line? When we don’t speak, we become unbearable, and when we do, we make fools of ourselves. Ms. Muller opens and closes her novel, The Land of Green Plums, with this line so she must thinks it’s important.  It must be the key her novel’s theme. What meaning can we find in it?  How different is the thought behind it … Continue reading The Land of Green Plums by Herta Muller

Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada

A colleague at work asked me what I was reading last week. “I’m reading a novel about Russian polar bears written by a Japanese woman who lives in Berlin and writes in German.” “Oh.” You’ve probably never heard of this book, either. I found Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky, on the German shelves of the translated literature … Continue reading Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada

My Life by Anton Chekov

Sometimes it can really help to have a professor guide your reading. This was one of those times.  I was well over halfway through Anton Chekhov’s novella My Life translated by Constance Garnett before I could decide just how satirical it was. To be honest before I could decide if it satirical or not. There is a lot of Russian literature from Mr. Chekhov’s day dealing with the … Continue reading My Life by Anton Chekov

The Letter Killers Club by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsk

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsk’s novel, The Letter Killers Club, opens when an un-named narrator informs us he has been invited to attend  the weekly meeting of seven well-respected authors.  The author’s have come to the conclusion, most of them late in their careers, that by writing down their ideas they  prevent others from having them.  So instead of writing, they now meet once a week to tell … Continue reading The Letter Killers Club by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsk

HHhH by Laurent Binet

Is it insulting to turn a real person into a character in a book? The nature of historical fiction and the inherent trustworthiness of it is foregrounded in HHhH by Laurent Binet.  Mr. Binet wants to tell the story of two men, Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík,  who carried out an assassination attempt on the life of Reinhard Heydrich, second in command of the Nazi SS … Continue reading HHhH by Laurent Binet

Ema, the Captive by Cesar Aira

 It’s been over a week since I finished reading Cesar Aira’s novel Ema the Captive, translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews, but I still don’t know quite what to make of it. I can’t even recall how, or why, I came to own a copy.  I think I bought it while visiting Los Angeles this past spring at Book Soup in West Hollywood just down the street … Continue reading Ema, the Captive by Cesar Aira

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

I realize my sample size is basically two, but what is it about Japanese writers and cats? If you’re a fan of Haruki Murakami, then you know his interest in cats. They are such a strong presence in his novel The Wind-up Bird that they cast something of a shadow on the rest of his writing.  Do all his books feature a cat? No? The Guest … Continue reading The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

New York City Book Buying Total Reaches Seven!

So I am  at seven books for seven days, as planned. Today, we made the obligatory visit to The Strand Bookstore, which you really must see if you visit New York and you love books.  The advertize 18 miles of books, which is probably true. Four stories of books, mostly new titles at a slightly reduced price with some used titles at a slight additional … Continue reading New York City Book Buying Total Reaches Seven!

The Ides of March by Valerio Massimo Manfredi

Have you ever known the ending from page one and still been unable to put the book down? Since Italian novelists Valerio Massimo Manfredi’s novel The Ides of March is about the last few days of Julius Ceasar’s life, we all know how the book is going to end, at least we all know how Julius Ceasar is going to end.  The challenge for the … Continue reading The Ides of March by Valerio Massimo Manfredi

Unnameable Books, Brooklyn, New York

I’ve failed. Should have seen it coming really. For this long stay in New York City–20 days cat-sitting in Brooklyn–I vowed to buy only one book per bookstore visit.  And to visit no more than one bookstore a day.  The buy one book was to be a requirement which, while it might force me to buy books, would have resulted in fewer books purchased overall … Continue reading Unnameable Books, Brooklyn, New York

Deep River by Shusako Endo

This books was one of the strangest reading experiences I’ve had in a while. The story concerns a group of Japanese tourists, visiting Buddhist holy sites on a tour of India.  It’s a bit like one of those 1970’s movies that featured a disparate cast of characters thrown together and then forced to confront each other through facing a common hardship. Their tour is not … Continue reading Deep River by Shusako Endo