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The Word Book (Japanese Literature Series)…
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The Word Book (Japanese Literature Series) (édition 2009)

par Kanai Mieko, Paul McCarthy (Traducteur)

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643331,987 (3)13
The newest addition to Dalkey Archive s Japanese Literature Series is a complex and beautiful tour de force.
Membre:rachelj
Titre:The Word Book (Japanese Literature Series)
Auteurs:Kanai Mieko
Autres auteurs:Paul McCarthy (Traducteur)
Info:Dalkey Archive (2009), Edition: Original, Paperback, 180 pages
Collections:Lus mais non possédés
Évaluation:***
Mots-clés:Japan, Fiction, Short Stories, Library

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The Word Book par Mieko Kanai

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This was for me the epitome of a forgettable book. (I posted this review on amazon only a few months after reading it, and apparently the book left me so cold that I boxed it up with others bound for the 2nd-hand bookshop immediately afterward.) I could not remember a single thing about it, unless that room full of watermelons is in this one. I scanned online reviews of it and not even synopses of the various stories in the book rang a bell. Completely forgotten in less than 6 months. Literary propofol. I mean, you can't recall being on the table under anaesthesia but blacking out in that way confers a benefit. And there might at first be alarming gaps in your memory of a long session down the pub but at least you remember having had a good rousing argument even if you don't remember what it was about, and by afternoon you'll have remembered how inexplicably delicious that punnet of chips was. But The Word Book? not a trace, nada, rien, squat. A reminder, as if I truly needed one by now, that fiction having the seductive properties of non-linearity, Dalkey publication, translation, and ambiguity isn't simply by virtue of those qualities worth one's time.

I'm guessing that Word Book was nicer than having surgery but not nearly so nice as a pint of Guinness..
1 voter bluepiano | Dec 27, 2016 |
My review appears in Belletrista:

http://www.belletrista.com/2010/issue7/reviews_9.php ( )
  timjones | Sep 30, 2010 |
Hmmm, didn't get into this until about half way through - I didn't understand the early stories, didn't particularly like them, and it is the kind of writing that makes me feel unintelligent and slow, which doesn't endear me to the author. But the last few stories grew on me, I liked the imagery, the dreamlike quality, and the twists and turns. They are also slightly less pretentious! I would like to reread this at some point. ( )
  rachelj | May 15, 2010 |
3 sur 3
Kanai's stories, while each is unique, all have a meta-cognitive and meta-narrative experience. The characters, and readers, are thrown into a soup of wonder, sometimes addressed directly, other times revealed obliquely like shadow puppetry. We wonder about their thoughts and our own, and how they relate to the stories unfolding in many layers. Readers will have to consider their role in reading: to answer the characters questions and solve their problems, or perhaps to construct the characters fictional existence.

The settings, characters, and themes could be in Europe or South America, as much as Japan, but perhaps not in America which is often too transparent and requires a more conflict-driven approach to storytelling. Kanai's stories remind me of Italo Calvino or Jorge Luis Borges, with their stylistically vague flatness yet strong character-driven underpinnings. They need to be read in a quiet room to fully appreciate their subtlety and power. But however you read the stories, I highly recommended them and look forward to more.
 
In The Word Book--first released in Japan as Tangoshu in 1979, released as part of the Dalkey Archives Japanese Literature series this fall in an English translation from Paul McCarthy, a professor of comparative culture at Japan's Surugadai University--writing becomes an act of unknowing, an act of obfuscation. Ideas of self, time, and fact become fugitive issues in Kanai's prose, and she achieves such an inchoate state through writing that is both as logical as a scientific proof and as gossamer ornate as a flower's petal. The tension between these forces, the poetic and the argumentative, gives her work a curious dreaminess, a fleeting mental space that she even describes in her "Fiction".
 
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