Friday, 30 December 2011

The Wind Has Risen

December has proved to be not a great month for me to blog in, I had originally planned to look back over my readings and posts of the last year, but instead have found myself  caught up by a reading of The Wind Has Risen/Kaze Tachinu by Hori Tatsuo, Hori was a disciple of Akutagawa and Muro Saisei, although a prominent literary figure of early Showa not very many of his writings have made it to being translated into English, which is a great pity although his novel Naoko from 1941 was translated by Yuko Watanabe by Bucknell University back in 1975 and a translation of his short story Les Joues en Feu appeared in Kodansha's The Showa Anthology. The translation of Kaze Tachinu by Francis B. Tenny can be read in Columbia University's recently published abridged edition of their Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature.  The above edition is from Iwanami Shoten which also includes Hori's novella Utsukushii Mura/Beautiful Village from 1933. Kaze Tachinu follows the tentative relationship with a male narrator and Setsuko who suffers from encroaching tuberculosis, the narrator's attentive observations of Setsuko's condition are also  interupted with careful observations of his relationship with his potential father in law. They come to the agreement that the two will head to a sanatorium at the base of Mount Yatsugatake, in the hope of an improvement to Setsuko's condition,  throughout the story they are taking small steps towards the answer of whether their relationship will form into something substantial, in little snippets of dialogue Setsuko gives away clues to the narrator to the depth of her commitment, as well as if to herself.

Hori Tatsuo suffered from lung complaints and ailing health for much of his life and this features prominently in much of his writings, the male narrator is an amazingly drawn character, pensive, intelligent, catching up with walks that he feels he should have taken, studious, and at the same time reading these cryptic signs from Setsuko, Hori's delicate prose captures the effects on the two as Setsuko succumbs to her condition, the male narrator sits with her holding her limp hand, he describes the scenes as he walks around the sanatorium observing the other patients, his walks extend around the local landscapes and woods, noting that 'in my minds eye the winter scenery like a wood-block print of some improbable place'. Hori's prose is touched with a slight modernism, the poetical descriptions of the woods and mountains contrasted with a description of a 'mackrel sky' fuse together the old and new styles. Coming to the sanatorium for the narrator begins to take on being a culmination of differing emotions and aspirations for him, he describes that he had dreamed of a secluded life with a woman, and they both observe that they find themselves in a sublime beauty and peace at the sanatorium, their relationship begins to ascend to a different level, he begins making notes of his thoughts - "Setsuko, I can't believe that two people have ever shared such mutual love. There hasn't been a you before. Or a me..." Her father pays a visit concerned that her condtion isn't improving and after he has left, her coughing brings up blood, although Setsuko and her father voice their concern of the narrator's work as a novelist is being jeopardised, he hints that he will write a novel of their situation, but stops when contemplating it's projected conclusion. As the story contiues the notes take on the form of being actual dated diary entries, in which some are mingled with retrospective comments so it remains uncertain for a while as to when they are being written, observations and recollections in past and present tense converge in almost elgiac prose where the observations of the narrator take on an etheral conciousness, he moves to the small village of Karuizawa, (which Hori also visited regulary), staring at the light reflected from his small cabin window the observation is imbued with an expansive quality, in a sense  with a universalism in minature. Walking around the village which is populated with many foreigners he comes across the German caretaker of the church who tells him that the priest is about to leave for Matsumoto. A copy of Rilke's Requiem For A Friend is posted to him and the narrator quotes from the poem. The story, although centering on the male narrator and his observations, rather than being preoccupied with Setsuko's illness is in Hori's nuanced prose an evocative piece of prose on the interpretation of memory and the impact of death, love and loss, and in the end it reads as a narrative from one who finds himself being the one left behind. The diary entries in the story begin at the start of December and I found rather unnervingly end on December 30th.          

Here's a list of the titles of non-Japanese authors and novels that I've read in 2011, in no real particular order;

Herman Hesse - Strange News From Another Star
Alain Robbe-Grillet - Project for a Revolution in New York
Alain Robbe-Grillet - Topology of A Phantom City
Michel Houellebecq - The Art of Struggle
Robert Musil - Tonka and Other Stories
Roland Topor - The Tenant
Marguerite Yourcenar - Mishima - A Vision of the Void
Roland Topor - Joko's Anniversary
Julian Barnes - A Sense of an Ending
Francois Mauriac - The Desert of Love
Jean-Philippe Toussaint - Making Love
Richard Brautigan - Sombrero Fallout
Michel Houellebecq - Lanzarote
Richard Brautigan - The Tokyo Montana Express
Steven Millhauser - Enchanted Night
Michelle Paver - Dark Matter
Susan Hill - The Albatross and Other Stories
Magnus Mills - The Maintenance of Headway
Bohumil Hrabal - Too Loud A Solitude
Ernst Junger - On the Marble Cliffs
Julien Gracq - Cheateau d'Argol
Otto de Kat - The Figure in the Disatance
Jonathan Lethem - Amnesia Moon

Amongst these is quite a few books I've been meaning to read for some time, including the Julien Gracq, (I've managed to locate a copy of his novel The Opposing Shore, so I'll be reading that soon), and also On the Marble Cliffs by Ernst Junger quite a controversial figure, but this novel has an almost unique narrative to it, there's no straightforward dialogue but the descriptive power of the novel is something I've not come across before, until a reading of Chateau d'Argol after it perhaps. Reading Julien Gracq's obituary in the Independent I was quite surprised to learn that On the Marble Cliffs was an influential novel on him. It was quite strange to read Houellebecq's Lanzarote at around the same time as 1Q84, as both novels skirt around the same themes in differing degrees, although Murakami's is certainly the more lengthy. Another novelist I came to this year was Alain-Robbe Grillet and if I'm being honest I picked these up after reading Kurahashi Yumiko's The Adventures of Sumiyakist Q, I found myself completely absorbed into the fragmentary narratives of both Project for a Revolution in New York and Topology of A Phantom City, so Alain-Robbe Grillet will be another author I'll probably revisit in the new year. Other non Japanese novels I've got earmarked to read for 2012, a mixture of old and new include, Roberto Bolano's The Third Reich, Gustaw Herlings collection of three novellas, The Island and also The Story of a Strange Time by Leonid Borodin who sadly passed away recently. Another novel that I'd like to read at some point is Michel Butor's La Modification/Second Thoughts, tracking down a copy of this will be a bit of a quest. There's been many books by Japanese authors that I've not made it to this year, in particular The Town That Vanished in Four Minutes by Shinya Komase and Koichi Toyoda, a photo book that recounts the effects of the March Tsunami on Rikuzentakada City, but hopefully I'll be able to read many more of these in the new year. Also in the new year I might be heading back to Japan, so maybe I'll put my blog on an indefinite hiatus, I have also for some time been contemplating the idea of starting an imprint, but I'm not sure, see how my time pans out, but it remains to say many thanks to you for reading and commenting over the past year.


@parridhlantern said...

I thought the name was familiar. I have Naoko on my wishlist, making this another point of interest to check out. As to your non-Japanese books, I've the Art of Struggle(hope to post soon) & Alain Robbe-Grillet's Djinn, yet to read. Also did you enjoy Steven Millhauser's book, I've read & posted on his short story collection The Barnum Museum, which I enjoyed.
Thanks for some wonderfully interesting posts & best wishes for the coming year.

me. said...

Was that Naoko by Keigo Higashino or by Hori Tatsuo?, as I'd be interested to know where you will obtain a copy!. The Art of Struggle was quite a mixed collection but I did find it a thought provoking selection. Steven Milhauser's novella was interesting, I did read 'Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer' a few years ago and found that 'Enchanted Night' maybe was slightly less ambitious in scope but found it a great little portrait of a middle American town, definitely an author I'll revisit. I'm in the middle of Gracq's 'The Opposing Shore' which is completely different to 'Chateau d'Argol', but the words devastating and relentless are coming to mind....
Thanks for commenting!

@parridhlantern said...

Keigo Higashino, the wrong one. my favourite Steven Milhauser from the Barnum Museum was A Game of Clue, which was about a game of Cluedo (Clue) but from the players perspective & also from the pieces,also the title tale is definitely inspired by the works of Jorge Luis Borges.

me. said...

Maybe I'll make The Barnum Museum my next Milhauser thanks for the tip!, his latest collection 'We Others' also looks interesting.

Rurousha said...

I discovered your blog only recently, but it's been a very, very pleasant discovery! If you do come back to Japan, welcome back. If you do put your blog on hiatus, please start another one! :) As far as that imprint is concerned, remember to keep us updated. All the best for 2012!

me. said...

Thanks for the kind comments!, I'm not really sure what 2012 might have in store for me, but I've been thinking about the possibilities of starting to publish for a while, if I did start I think I'd be looking to publish two titles a year and then see what happens. As to moving back to Japan it might turn out to be that it'll only be a visit this year, we'll have to see. I hope that 2012 is a good year for you too!

ichi said...

Please , do you a have a version in pdf in English?

me. said...

Thanks for the comment, I don't, it is available to read in the abridged edition of The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature, which is also available to read as a kindle e-book.

I'm slightly surprised that a stand alone translated edition of this hasn't appeared, or indeed one of Grave of the Fireflies.