Post illustration created by Dall-e.
I have not been very motivated to read lately, hopefully this will change! I did start a promising book, so let’s hope it will be engrossing enough to make me read more.
The book in question is 『蒸発』by Shizuko Natsuki (夏樹静子). She is apparently best known in the English-speaking world for her novel Murder at Mt. Fuji, (translated by Robert B. Rohmer), but it is the first time that I am reading this author.
『蒸発』has won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award in 1973. I have only read 126 pages out of the 486 pages of the novel so far, but it is excellent, with a good mix of mystery and character building.
In the novel, the term 蒸発 (じょうはつ: evaporation /mysterious disappearance) is explained as a trendy term (in 1970) used to talk about the people who disappeared, included those whose disappearance has not been reported to the police.
I looked a bit further, and found a site explaining the difference between several words meaning “disappearance”:
行方不明・ゆくえふめい: The reason why the person disappeared is completely unknown. The person could have disappeared intentionally, or they could have been victim of a crime or accident.
蒸発・じょうはつ: the person disappeared intentionally, but the reason for their disappearance is completely unknown. The person is not considered to be involved in an accident or criminal case.
失踪・しっそう: the person disappeared intentionally and is not involved in an accident or criminal case. Even though the reason for their disappearance is unknown, people who knew the person like family members and colleagues can, to a certain extent, guess what the reason is.
家出・いえで: the reason for the person’s disappearance is easy to guess. They often come back eventually or, if they don’t, they still maintain a social life.
駆け落ち・かけおち: The reason for the disappearance is known: lovers who didn’t get their parents’ approval run away to live together or get married.
Finally, the term 夜逃げ・よにげ is just describing a way (by night) by which people intentionally disappear. I see this word quite often in novels, and if you don’t play Animal Crossing for a while and then come back, the “コワイ” character would say he thought you had 夜逃げ.
According to the same site, the term 蒸発 has started to be widely used as “disappearance” (and not just “evaporation”) with the film 『人間蒸発』(1967). This film is a pseudo-documentary (Japanese word is モキュメンタリー for “mockumentary”) about a woman looking for her fiancé who has disappeared.
Anyway, it was interesting to learn all these nuances. My goal is to finish 『蒸発』and read two other Japanese books this month, that I have ordered (but not received yet).
I finished 재생 by 정명섭 (Jeong Myeongseop). I absolutely loved the first two-thirds of the novel. It was suspenseful, funny, and the time loop was really well done. I kept wanting the character to go further and learn the truth while also enjoying seeing him failing and doing everything all over again.
The end is not bad, but there is clearly a shift in the narrative and even the genre changed a little. It felt like reading a completely different novel, one that was less my kind of book.
Still, I found the book overall entertaining and both classic in its genre (the zombie situation in there is pretty much what you would expect) and also original and unique (the time loop brings an exciting aspect to the story). Except for the last part, which again felt like reading a different story, the book is very easy to read, with a lot of recurring scenes, hence recurring vocabulary.
The prompt for November #22tlreadingchallenge is “a book with a movie”, but I could not find anything that I wanted to read or watch. As I was not super motivated to start a Korean novel anyway, I decided to just continue reading Spy x Family by Tatsuya Endo (遠藤達哉) in Korean for this month’s challenge (translated by 서현아).
I was hoping that there might be Korean dubs for the series, but I only have access to the Japanese version with Korean subtitles. In the end, it is actually more fun this way. I am first reading the Korean translation, then I watch the series in Japanese with Korean subtitles.
I don’t know if I will be able to catch up with the 10 volumes this month, but I’ll try to read as many as possible. I have already read the first 4 volumes.
Finally, these are the books that I have finished recently.
First, I finished 『乱れからくり』by Tsumao Awasaka (泡坂妻夫) and ended up not really liking it. I was hoping that it would be a murder mystery where mechanisms (like toys, labyrinth, etc.) would play a part, but it feels more like the reverse. Parts explaining the history and particularities of mechanical toys where a bit too long and detailed, and the murders occurring in the novel felt strangely anecdotical. It was hard to understand the characters’ actions and reactions to things, and I also disliked our protagonist.
Unfortunately, I feel like most of the winners of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award that I have read so far fall in this category of books that were okay, but not astoundingly good. I enjoyed reading most of them, and even 『乱れからくり』did not make me want to DNF it, but they are not extraordinary good either. I must say that for now, I am a little disappointed by the selection, but on the other hand, it lets me read authors that I didn’t know and would not have read otherwise.
I also picked up 『迷宮』by Fuminori Nakamura (中村文則) because it just got translated into Korean and I saw the Korean version in a bookstore. Upon reading the summary, I thought it would be a book for me, and I ordered the original version on the bookstore website instead of buying the translation.
The summary had caught my eye when I read it in Korean. It looked like a good howdunnit, with a locked-room mystery and a very intriguing setting for a murder. The mystery is good, but this is not really this kind of book either. It is much darker than I had expected, and quite depressive too. I don’t think that this book is for everyone as it deals with childhood trauma and abuse.
If you are looking for an exciting locked-room mystery, you can certainly find other books that are not so heavy. I personally liked the book, but it did not make me want to read other books by this author, or at least not in the near future.
Finally, I want to read books that deal with time, so I picked up a classic: 『時をかける少女』by Yasutaka Tsutsui (筒井康隆). It is a novella of 115 pages first serialised in 1965 and published in 1967. The story feels surprisingly contemporary, I was shocked when I learned that it was written more than 50 years ago!
The story is very good and really engrossing. The end was less convincing to me, but I still enjoyed reading it from start to finish, even though I am neither a big reader of light novel nor a fan of SF.
There are numerous adaptations, including an anime movie from 2006.
The book was easy to read, and it is available in the Tsubasa collection, which has complete furigana.
And that’s it! My goal for November is to finish 『蒸発』, and it will certainly be the only award winner that I am reading this month (because it is quite long). In parallel, I hope to finish the two books I have ordered this month as well.