I am currently waiting for the Summer to end, and the good news is that July is over! I haven’t read as much as I wanted, and I did not finish my book for the #22tlreadingchallenge. I also only read one winner of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award.
Mystery Writers of Japan Award – Project
Read all the available winners of the MWJ award for fiction (in chronological order).
I only read one book this month:『華麗なる醜聞』by Yo Sano (佐野洋)
I started this book at the beginning of the month, and although it is under 300 pages, it took me the whole month to get through it.
We follow journalists who are obsessed with finding the meaning and origin of the word ”high hostess” and the police who is after a serial bomber. I found the story with the bomber to be interesting, but the high hostess thing did not trigger my interest. Overall, the story was not compelling enough and while the conclusion and some connections seem obvious very soon, it takes forever to eventually get there.
Overall this book left me disappointed, especially because I expected the prize winners to be, if not mind blowing, at least a little more special.
20th Century reading challenge
Read a book set in each decade of the 20th Century in chronological order (publication date does not matter).
July brought me to the 1960s, and I have decided to explore Maoism with two books by Yan Lianke (阎连科).
The Four Books (translated by Carlos Rojas) describes the lives of intellectuals sent to camps in the countryside, their epic battle to meet the quotas of agricultural production and steel smelting, and finally, their going through the devastating famine that followed. I loved everything in the book, from the unique structure to the sarcastic tone, while the absurdity of what is described gave me the chills all along. This is a fantastic book that I highly recommend.
In comparison, I found Serve the People! (translated by Julia Lovell) to be less powerful, although it looks like it is more popular than The Four Books. Serve the People! is more focused on the relationship between the two protagonists than the historical background, so it made it a little less interesting to me. There is a Korean film adaptation of the book, but watching the trailer did not make me want to watch it 🤔
Read one book per month in your target language (I chose Korean). Check out the prompts here.
I chose to read a book about Korean popular music and how it became the k-pop we know today: <가요, 케이팝 그리고 그너머> by 신현준 (Shin Hyeonjun). However, this book was a bit too specialised for me. I would have preferred an introductory book about the history of popular music in Korea, but this one also has long parts that theorise on popular music in general. A bit too complex for my purpose!
I haven’t finished it, but I did learn a lot of things. I don’t know much about k-pop, and this book allowed me to learn about key moments in the Korean pop history.
『オレたちバブル入行組』by Jun Ikeido (池井戸潤) is my favourite book of the month. I cannot recommend it enough, it was highly entertaining. I haven’t watched the drama adaptation, but I heard that it has been a huge hit in Japan.
I did something completely new with this book: I read it while listening to the Korean audiobook (한자와 나오키 1, translated by 이선희, read by 김상백). At first, this felt impossible, and I had to pause the audio to catch up. But soon, things became easier, to the point where I could read and listen for longer periods of time without having to pause to re-read something.
This exercise is actually much easier to do than it sounds. Korean and Japanese have a similar structure, and the Korean translation kept very close to the Japanese, meaning that most of the time, you had the exact same sentence, but in Korean. For example, the beginning is:
秘密스러운 指示에는 이유가 있게마련이다. 協定破棄다.
産業中央銀行에서 電話가 걸려온 것은,
8月 20日, 밤 9時가 조금 넘은 時間이었다.
相対는 就業希望者用 要請資料를 보내줘서 고맙다고 말한뒤,
아직 産業中央銀行에 関心이 있는지 물었다.
I wrote the Korean hanja words in characters so even if you don’t read Korean, you can see that the sentences look similar. There are some minor differences here and there, but most of the time, the Korean structure mirrors the Japanese one.
When it came to casual discussions and topics, my brain registered the Korean audio first, but for passages with a lot of specialised words that explained bank-related concepts or procedures, the Japanese would suddenly become much easier to me.
I must add that the voice actor 김상백 (Kim Sangbaek) is just incredible, that was a baffling performance.
『殺人現場は雲の上』by Keigo Higashino (東野圭吾)
This is the easiest book I read this month. Each of the stories is around 40 pages long, but they felt much shorter and read very quickly.
It is not a realistic depiction of police procedures or how a murder would actually be solved, but it is entertaining and the mysteries are good. If you are looking for light mysteries that are easy to read, this book is perfect. As someone who prefers more serious and realistic murder or mysteries cases, I was a little disappointed. But it was still entertaining enough, and it was refreshing to have a book that I could read quickly and that felt very easy to read.
I haven’t progressed much on《13・67》by Chan Ho-Kei, but I will try to finish the first story in August.
I still have two stories from Rogues by Patrick Radden Keefe, which was my audiobook for July.