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review 2016-12-07 13:41
Banana Yoshimoto | Lebensgeister
Lebensgeister - Thomas Eggenberg,Banana Yoshimoto
Die Ich-Erzählerin Sayoko und ihr Freund Yoishi geraten in einen schweren Autounfall. Während ihr Freund bei diesem Unfall stirbt, erlebt Sayoko eine Nahtoderfahrung. In einer Zwischenwelt trifft sie erst auf ihren verstorbenen Hund und schließlich auf ihren ebenso bereits verstorbenen Großvater, der sie wieder zurück in die Welt der Lebenden entlässt. 
 
Halt findet Sayoko in der Familie ihres Freundes und in dessen Arbeit; als Nachlassverwalterin kümmert sie sich um Yoishis Atelier und seine verbleibenden Kunstwerke. 
 
Ihre Wunden heilen, doch bald schon findet sie heraus, dass sie nun in der Lage ist Geister zu sehen. Auf diese Weise lernt sie Ataru kennen, der vor kurzem seine Mutter verloren hat und dieser nun jeden Tag frische Blumen ins Zimmer stellt; als Wiedergutmachung, da er sich, während seine Mutter lebte, nicht genügend um sie gekümmert hat. 
 
Zusammen mit dem Barkeeper Shingaki, der an Saykoko interessiert ist und auf sie aufpasst, fügt sie das Leben in Kyoto wieder zusammen. 
 
Nahtoderfahrung, der Freund stirbt, die Fähigkeit Geister zu sehen ... alles klingt nach viel Herzschmerz, Mystery und vielleicht ein wenig Esoterik. Wenn Du mit diesem Gedanken an dieses Buch herangehst, liegst du falsch. 
 
Nicht der Tod steht hier im Mittelpunkt, sondern das Leben an sich, mit all seinen Facetten, seinen Rätseln, seinen Unsicherheiten. Trotz der Thematik ist dieses Buch unglaublich offen und lebensbejahend. Es ist berührend ehrlich, von simpler, klarer Schönheit, die Sprache zeigt simple Eleganz. 
 
Ihre Figuren sind warm gezeichnet, aus dem Leben gegriffen und der Plot dient ihnen, nicht umgekehrt. Sie sind keine Schablonen, die für die Geschichte einen Zweck erfüllen, sie erzählen die Geschichte. 
 
Das Bild der Geister schafft eine Verbindung zwischen dem hier und jetzt, ohne jegliche Effekthascherei. Es scheint mehr wie eine Metapher dafür, dass, auch wenn Menschen diese Welt verlassen ihre Spuren trotzdem noch zu finden sind, immer noch nachhallen. Wenn die erste, harte Trauer vorbei ist, kann man, wie Sayoko erkennen, dass dies ein Gewinn und kein Verlust ist. Wenn ein Mensch stirbt, würde man sich wünschen, man hätte ihn nie gekannt um die Schmerz nicht fühlen zu müssen?  Es gibt es einem doch Sicherheit zu wissen, dass dieser Mensch da war und seine Präsenz im eigenen Leben noch immer Einfluss hat, noch immer zu spüren ist. Vergessen zu werden ist der wahre Tod, könnte das Fazit dieses Buches lauten. 
 
Banana Yoshimoto schafft es für mich wie noch kein Autor zuvor den Tod eines Menschen so ehrlich, herzerwärmend und dabei ohne  Schnörkelei oder übertriebene Dramatik so berührend darzustellen. Vor allem fasziniert mich die Hoffnung, die dieses Buch ausstrahlt. 
 
Der Tod kann einen immer und überall treffen, man kann und wird nie verstehen warum gerade dieser Mensch gehen musste. Doch das Leben geht weiter, und es ist gut so. Auch wenn sich die Dinge wandeln, auch wenn man manchmal an einer Mauer steht und nicht weiterkommt, das Leben ist schön und der Tod ein Teil davon. 
 
"Lebensgeister" hat mir ein bisschen die Angst genommen, mich aufgefangen und mir wieder einmal gezeigt, dass man kaum jemals wirklich allein ist, mit dem, was man erfährt. 
 
Das ist so viel mehr, als ich von einem Buch erwarten habe und ich bin dankbar, dass ich dieses Buch finden und lesen durfte. 
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quote 2016-12-02 15:32
Als ich die Eisenstange bemerkte, wie sie da in meinem Bauch steckte, dachte ich: Verdammt, das sieht nicht gut aus ... Ich werde sterben.
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text 2015-11-06 00:26
Dabbling in some Japanese Literature
Botchan (Master Darling) - Sōseki Natsume,Yasotaro Morri
Japanese Gothic Tales - Kyōka Izumi,Charles Shiro Inouye
The Temple of the Golden Pavilion - Yukio Mishima,Ivan Morris
House of the Sleeping Beauties and Other Stories - Yasunari Kawabata,Edward G. Seidensticker,Yukio Mishima
Coin Locker Babies - Ryū Murakami,Stephen Snyder
Kitchen - Banana Yoshimoto,Megan Backus
Mushishi, Volume 1 - Yuki Urushibara
I'll Give It My All...Tomorrow, Vol. 1 - Shunju Aono


In preparing for my trip to Japan, from which I returned more than a month ago, I began to read a few of the Japanese works of literature that I had been gathering at library book sales over the years. Of course, this type of "theme" reading is something that I'm all about. Basically, I'll put together a theme reading list for just about any activity or event in my life, so absorbing some of the works of prominent Japanese authors throughout the 20th and 21st century was a given! 

 

Reading these works before taking off, during my stay in Japan, and after my return was quite interesting, as my experiences influenced both my response to the culture and changed how I saw the books I was reading as well. Here, I've arranged them in order of publication. 

I opened up my reading this summer with Botchan by Natsume Soseki. Often called the Japanese equivalent of Huck Finn, as in a classic work of literature that most people encounter in high school, Botchan was still a pretty funny read, even across the cultural and time divide. 

 

Written in 1906, during the Meiji Period, a time of great change in Japanese society as the nation works to modernize and industrialize itself, Botchan exemplifies this uncertain but exciting time. Following an self-confident, some would say arrogant, young college graduate from Tokyo as he reluctantly starts his first job as a teacher in an out of the way, rural town, I actually found a lot to sympathize with in his situation. In a way, I could see some parallels between this "untrustworthy narrator" and the complaints about Millennials today. 

 

As the headstrong kid butts heads with his fellow teachers and their set ways of doing things, he feels he is being set up to fail. Not sure exactly what he wants, homesick for his cosmopolitan hometown, he does not adapt well to this new environment and soon begins plotting to get back at these insincere phonies to hilarious result. I particularly enjoyed the nicknames he gave all of his coworkers on the first day. 

 

I first read this collection of eerie Japanese stories by Kyoka Izumi some years ago, when I was looking for weird tales from different cultural backgrounds. I found it even more interesting as a companion on the trip as I learned more of the locations and history written about by Izumi. 

 

Japanese Gothic Tales contains four novellas, written during the Meiji and Taisho periods of Japanese history. Eschewing the modernism aimed for by other authors at the time, Izumi's work is nonetheless influenced by this period of great change in Japanese culture. The stories themselves are surreal and eerie, particularly my favorite, "The Holy Man of Mount Koya," which deals with spooky creatures and magic in the mountains.

 

One of the major themes of all four of the stories is the relationships between men and women, and tragedy that results, along with strong supernatural elements- also, a theme of the story being told second hand via a secondary narrator relating some experience to a nameless viewpoint character gave the tales a folkloric air; there is also much to ponder regarding Buddhist and Shinto beliefs, Japanese philosophies, and the transforming history of the period. 

 

First published in 1956, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion was a gripping and taut psychological novel featuring a fictionalized telling of the infamous 1950 arson of Kinkaku-ji, a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto by a mentally unstable young monk. 

 

Yukio Mishima, one of Japan's foremost modern writers and himself a psychologically complex figure, delved into the dark resentments and philosophies of the neurotic Mizoguchi. A Zen acolyte groomed to join the clergy who developed a pathological love and hatred for the beauty of the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, bound in with his misogyny and self-hatred. Self described as ugly, and afflicted by stuttering, he finds his family's dream of him taking over the Temple taken from him, and responds by burning the temple to the ground, justifying it through his Zen beliefs. Not exactly a happy tale, it is nonetheless a riveting account of an unhealthy mind. It does contain much to think about regarding Zen Buddhist teachings as well. 


Published in 1961, this collection of stories by Yusanari Kawabata explore some dark and surreal territory. I think that one of the literary terms appropriate here may be "decadence." The title story, "House of the Sleeping Beauties," for instance, is a fairly disturbing tale of an aging man paying to sleep next to drugged, unconscious, naked women, and much of the story is the narrator describing the physical appearance of each of the women and how they remind him of people and places from his past. He also considers strangling them. 

 

"One Arm" also involved a surreal episode of a man paying for a woman's body, in this case her physical arm, which is painlessly detached and he takes away with him, later to swap with his own arm. The last tale, "Of Birds and Beasts," discusses the authors love of animals and how this love translates more into cruelty than kindness towards his favorite pets. Not really sure quite what to make of these ornate, complex stories.                      

 

Wow, what to say about this one, this tour de force of pitch black humor and deadpan surrealism, this fevered tour of Japan's deepest id. 


Kiku and Hashi, their lives haunted by their newborn hours spent stifling in adjacent train-station coin lockers, abandoned to die by their pitiless mothers attempted to navigate their way through a bizarre and labyrinthine world. Growing up as adopted brothers, most comfortable in the abandoned ruins of Japan’s former industry, they begin to plot revenge against the society that created their mothers. While stoic, pole-vaulting Kiku finds a soulmate in Anemone, a cynical, crocodile loving model who shares his hatred of Japanese society and a desire to destroy it all, the sensitive, neurotic Hashi becomes a male prostitute, a pop-star, and loses his mind. Both share a penchant for murder and rice omelets.

 

From Tokyo to up to the northern town of Hakodate, all the way down to the Ryukyuan Islands, the trio encounter a host of bizarre characters while struggling with their own inability to get over their maternal abandonment. There is much analysis that can be attempted about what aspects of Japanese culture Murakami was parodying and exploring in this bleak book. Of course, Coin Locker Babies finishes up with no real resolution, or even any real ending, though there is plenty of tension.

 

The two novellas by Banana Yoshimoto collected in this book, the titular "Kitchen" and "Moonlight Shadow," were both effecting, melancholy, hopeful, and beautiful descriptions of personal loss and everyday pleasures. Evoking both the mundane pleasures and the grief of lost loved ones, Yoshimoto's stories illustrate the complex feelings of life.

 

Also, particularly in "Moonlight Shadow," there is a magic realist theme that I really found interesting as well. Focusing on young people not sure where they are going and trying to cope with the loss of loved ones, I think a lot of people can really identify with them. It is also really interesting to see these common human feelings through the eyes of a different culture as well. Of course, owing to Yoshimoto's lush descriptions of food, I am definitely looking forward to going to some more restaurants in Tokyo.

 

Along with the more "serious" works I've looked at so far, I also thought it would be relevant to read a couple of manga titles before the trip, as well. The first volume of Yuki Urushibara's Mushishi was an eerie, understated fantasy read I quite enjoyed- it had a supernatural theme that echoed Japanese folklore and belief combined with an interesting naturalistic scientific background as well. 

 

Following the Western costumed "Mushi master" (mushishi) Gingko, as he travels a feudal Japanese countryside helping people deal with mushi- strange, and inexplicable phenomena that may or may not be life as we know it, but which predates plant and animal life by eons. Urushibara's lush, atmospheric art does a lot to cultivate the mysterious feelings explored in her writing. I'm looking forward to seeing where the rest of the series goes.


Shunju Aono's dramedy series "I'll Give It My All... Tomorrow" has been very interesting to me. With it's unusual art style and mundane, slice of life storytelling, it is a realistic, heart felt, and funny glimpse into everyday life in modern Japan. A contrast to the escapist, larger than life style of most manga, Aono's work is low key, touching, and funny.

 

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Following the "exploits" of Shizuo Oguro, a bit of a sad sack who, in the throws of a midlife crisis, quits his soul-sucking job as a salary-man to follow his dream of becoming a manga artist. A man who often changes his identity, Oguro finds himself whiling away his days working on his cliched manga ideas, taking advantage of his father and daughter's generosity before being forced to take a job in fast food to make ends meet. As the series continues, we watch Oguro's pathos evolve, particularly through the lens of his friends and family.

 

It was very interesting seeing how these accounts of Japanese life were reflected in my own experiences in the country, and how my own responses and mental pictures of them also changed. Now, I have a frame of reference to look at them, and likewise, reading these works also prepared me for what to look for during my journeys. Of course, they we'rent perfect, either. I could only read English translations, which leaves a lot of the original feel of the language out, I feel. In Botchan, for instance, Soseki was fond of using witty puns, puns which would make no sense in English and, for the most part, were left out. Still, even through this imprecise method, reading these books allowed me, in a way, to continue my trip even after I returned home.

 

Sensoji Temple, Asakusa District, Tokyo

 

Now that my trip to Japan is already quickly fading into the fuzzy pleasantness of nostalgia, these books will allow me to keep my experiences close, at least until my next trip!

 

*Theme music for entry: "My Magic Glasses," Shonen Knife, Genki Shock, 2005

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review 2015-10-01 15:47
Pazzesco.
Lucertola - Banana Yoshimoto,Giorgio Amitrano

È il primo libro di Banana Yoshimoto che leggo nella mia vita.

Sinceramente, non sapevo proprio cosa aspettarmi, pur conoscendo in parte quanto sia diversa la letteratura giapponese dalla nostra. 

Credo di essere rimasta senza parole e di non riuscire ancora ad articolare nessun pensiero coerente con quanto ho appena finito di leggere. Sarà perché ho letto il libro tutto d'un fiato mentre andava preso a piccole dosi..non so.

Sta di fatto che, in quelle parole, c'è tanta di quell'immensità da perdersi completamente..rimanendo nudi di fronte all'essere, al non essere, alla vita, alla morte..insomma: davvero pazzesco.

 

I suoi movimenti erano così fluidi che qualsiasi posa assumesse dava un’illusione di immobilità. Per quanto la musica potesse essere fragorosa, lei sola sembrava esistere in un mondo senza suoni.

 

 

Sentii un senso di perdita assoluto, come se il mondo dovesse finire.

 

 

Il corpo, senza uno spirito che mi guardi, è solo un contenitore. E quindi lo si può guarire, come si aggiustano le macchine, pensai.

 

 

Per esempio quando tu chiudi gli occhi, in quel preciso istante il centro dell’universo si raccoglie dentro di te.

 

 

Dato che la memoria è energia, se non viene liberata rimane nel corpo e intristisce.

 

 

Convenzioni, strane regole non scritte… ce n’è un’infinità, e proprio perché creano tante piccole limitazioni, all'interno di un ambiente ristretto hanno una forza assoluta. Stereotipi che agiscono ancora prima del giudizio morale...

 

 

Insomma, a parte la differenza di atmosfera, la percentuale di persone speciali e di quelle insulse era la stessa dappertutto.

 

 

Parole che in quel momento potevano riferirsi solo a me, e che a un altro sarebbero parse insignificanti, banali. Le persone che pronunciano parole così lo fanno come per caso, come se non avessero nessuna importanza, ma in realtà, in qualche parte profonda di loro, devono conoscere il potere di quello che hanno appena detto. Sentire di averti dato qualcosa che hanno portato da chissà quale meraviglioso luogo infinitamente distante.

 

 

La mia casa sono solo io, il mio posto è solo dove sono in quel momento, e però questa realtà non si può isolare: è un processo continuo come la bellezza azzurra dell’aurora che dopo un istante si trasformerà in un’alba che possiede una diversa bellezza non meno meravigliosa. È più o meno la stessa cosa.

 

 

E potrei andare avanti ancora per molto...

È qualcosa che tocca nel profondo.

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review 2015-09-03 13:34
Banana Yoshimoto's Kitchen
Kitchen - Banana Yoshimoto,Megan Backus

Kitchen is two stories.  The first is the novella Kitchen which is a delightful surprise and the second is a long short story called moonlight shadow.

Banana Yoshimoto wrote Kitchen when she was only 24 and Moonlight Shadow was written prior to that.  Moonlight shadow reads like talented juvenalia and is a fairly standard magical realism work.  It deals with similar themes to Kitchen and is most interesting in how it relates to Kitchen.

Kitchen is extremely good.  Surprisingly good and is almost a five star book.  It is hard to tell if it is a case of lightning striking once or if Yoshimoto's later work will be of the same standard.  A review in the front of my copy compares Yoshimoto's style to Haiku's and surprisingly that is quite informative.  Especially in Kitchen her writing is very stripped down.  Her sentences structures are simple short and dense with meaning, but the overall tone is very light and airy.  Her primary theme is death, grief, loss and survival.  She manages the task of being honest and real, while being airy and light.  The style of the book forces you to slow your reading down and read at a pace more suitable to poetry.

Yoshimoto, also has a transgender character.  She is a good character but its not so insightful there, although it did totally humanize a transgender character in 1988.  Her style and characters are quirky, but I thought the whole thing very sharp and clever and real.  There is a sort of romance or non-romance in the work which is very well done.  

I had meant to read Kitchen for a long time, but it was far down my priority list.  I read it on a whim and was very taken with it.  Because she is so young, its hard to tell if this is a case of everything coming together once or if she is one of the best writers around.  I'm looking forward to finding out.

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